Update: Stage 2 of Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill
Date: 10th September 2015
Category: Age of criminal responsibility, Children of prisoners
During Stage 2 considerations of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill, the Justice Committee backed law change for children impacted by a parent in prison but rejected an amendment to raise the age of criminal responsibility from eight to 12.
The Committee backed by five votes to four an amendment to the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill tabled by Mary Fee MSP that will introduce the use of child and family impact assessments when a parent receives a custodial sentence.
A number of children's charities have regarded this as welcome recognition of the potential long term impacts of parental imprisonment on children. They point out that more children in the UK are now affected by parental imprisonment each year than by divorce.
Together welcomes the success of this amendment as a positive step forward to removing the many barriers faced by children affected by imprisonment in accessing their rights as enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Alison McInnes MSP sought to gain parliamentary support for the amendment to raise the age of criminal responsibility from eight to 12. The age of criminal responsibility in Scotland (age 8) is one of the lowest in the world. The amendment was voted against by the Justice Committee, as follows:
Finnie, John (Highlands and Islands) (Ind)
McDougall, Margaret (Central Scotland) (Lab)
McInnes, Alison (North East Scotland) (LD)
Murray, Elaine (Dumfriesshire) (Lab)
Allard, Christian (North East Scotland) (SNP)
Campbell, Roderick (North East Fife) (SNP)
Grahame, Christine (Midlothian South, Tweeddale and
Paterson, Gil (Clydebank and Milngavie) (SNP)
Mitchell, Margaret (Central Scotland) (Con)
I am using my casting vote against the amendment. Amendment 54 disagreed to.
Raising the age of criminal responsibility in line with international best practice is strongly supported by Together and a number of children's organisations.
It would lead to an increased emphasis on addressing the specific needs of children within the justice system which can often include issues such as neglect or abusive treatment.
Together recommended in its recent report to the UN Committee for the Scottish Government to raise the age of criminal responsibility in line with international best practice.