Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility – research briefing

Category: Age of criminal responsibility

6th September 2016

A research briefing for the House of Commons library looks at the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility across the UK. It notes the work of Scotland's Expert Advisory Group and states that "an increase of the age of criminal responsibility may happen soon in Scotland".

The Commons Library briefing discusses the debate around raising the age of criminal responsibility - the age below which a child is deemed not to have the capacity to commit a crime.

The age of criminal responsibility is currently set at 10 years in England and Wales and in Northern Ireland. Scotland has the youngest age of criminal responsibility in Europe at 8 years of age.

The UN Committee has repeatedly expressed the view that the minimum age of criminal responsibility should be 12 years. It urges compliance with the 'Beijing Rules' (minimum standards for the administration of juvenile justice) and calls for a minimum age that reflects the emotional, mental and intellectual maturity of children.

The Children's Commissioner for England, the Children and Young People's Commissioner for Scotland and the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People are all of the view that the minimum age of criminal responsibility in their respective jurisdictions is too low. Each commissioner has stressed the welfare needs of children who offend. They have drawn attention to recent research on children's cognitive and emotional development and the damaging impact of early entry into the criminal justice system.

In looking at the UK and devolved government responses on the issue, the research briefing notes that an increase of the age of criminal responsibility may happen soon in Scotland following the recommendation of an expert advisory group tasked by the Scottish Government with considering the implications of raising the age from 8 to 12 years. The responses to the subsequent consultation into the advisory group's recommendations show support for reform. Together's Director Juliet Harris is part of this expert advisory group.

 

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