Raising age of criminal responsibility in Scotland gains widespread support

Category: Age of criminal responsibility

23rd August 2016

Several organisations have supported the call to raise Scotland's age of criminal responsibility from eight in order to meet UN-backed minimum human rights standards.

This has followed a recommendation from the Advisory Group on the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility to raise the age from eight to twelve years old.

Organisations backing the call to increase the age of criminal responsibility to twelve include children's representatives, councils, The Law Society of Scotland and criminal justice charities.

The change would see Scotland shed its status as having the lowest age of criminal responsibility in Europe. Currently, children in Scotland aged under twelve cannot be prosecuted but can be required to attend a children's hearing where they can be held legally responsible for a crime. This could mean acquiring a criminal record which can affect opportunities in later life.

The Advisory Group

Together's Director is a member of the advisory group - alongside senior figures from Police Scotland, charities, Social Work Scotland, Scotland's children's commissioner and the Scottish Children's Reporters' Administration - set up by the Scottish Government to consider the policy, legislative and procedural implications of raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility from eight to twelve.

The current age of criminal responsibility in Scotland in one of the lowest in Europe and has been highlighted as an issue of concern by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child on numerous occasions. The Scottish Government first committed to review this in 2009 in the 'Do the Right Thing' action plan. The group produced a report in February 2016 which forms the basis of proposals for wider consultation.

The first meeting of the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility Advisory Group was held on Monday 16 November 2015.

The UN Concluding Observations

In June 2016, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, following a UK State Party examination, released a set of recommendations, known as Concluding Observations that call on the UK and devolved governments to take forward children's rights as enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).

The Committee noted that the Scottish Government is open to raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility and that an advisory group was established to explore these issues and develop recommendations for consultation. However, the Committee remains concerned that the minimum age of criminal responsibility is still currently set at eight years-old and recommends that it is raised in accordance with acceptable international standards (Concluding Observation 79a).

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