Proposals to raise age of criminal responsibility to 16 would see murder and rape become subject of children’s hearings

A figure from the children’s hearing system has said the age of criminal responsibility could be raised to 16.

Malcolm Schaffer, head of practice and policy at the Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration, told MSPs that the criminal justice system is not necessary to “control behaviour” of children and that this is better dealt with by a welfare system.

Mr Schaffer told Holyrood’s Equalities and Human Rights Committee that he supports a bill currently in the Parliament which aims to raise the age to 12.

The current age, eight, is among the lowest in the world and is the lowest in the rest of the UK, where it is 10. The UN recommends an age of 14.

“Our hope and desire is that this can be implemented as soon as possible so that we stop the criminalisation of eight-year-olds,” Mr Schaffer said. “We can aspire to raising either the age of criminal responsibility or the age of criminal prosecution to either 14 or 16.”

He added: “We’re about rehabilitation. We’re about children not having what’s happened to them at age 10 to 12 hanging with them all their lives. We want to give a fresh start.”

Mr Schaffer noted that raising the age of criminal responsibility to 16 would mean that the children’s hearing system would deal with serious crimes including murder and rape.

The Liberal Democrats are seeking to have the Age of Criminal Responsibility (Scotland) Bill amended to include an age of 16 but have put forward proposals for 14 if this amendment fails.

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