Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility Report issued

Date: 29th March 2016
Category: Age of criminal responsibility

Together are proud to be a part of the Independent Advisory Group that has released its report on the minimum age of criminal responsibility in Scotland. The key recommendation is that the age of criminal responsibility should be raised from 8 to 12 years as soon as possible.

The Advisory Group was tasked by Scottish Ministers with considering the policy, legislative and procedural implications of raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 8 to 12 years.

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has suggested that 12 years old should be regarded as the minimum internationally acceptable age of criminal responsibility. Scotland has been criticised for having an age of criminal responsibility which is the lowest in Europe.

As such, the Advisory Group approached an increase in the age of criminal responsibility to 12 years old, not from the perspective of if it should happen, but rather how and when it should happen. The Advisory Group also concerned itself with how to deliver change in a sustainable, responsible manner.

Advisory Group members focused on 4 key areas: that is, how any risk posed by the harmful behaviour of a child under 12 could be successfully managed; the implications of an increase in the age of criminal responsibility on the Children's Hearings System; the impact such a change might have on Police powers and their ability to investigate an incident and the implications for information that could be included on a higher level Disclosure or Protection of Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme record.

The report is accompanied by a comprehensive Children's Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessment (CRWIA). This CRWIA has helped ensure that the main report has a child-centred and child rights focussed approach. Juliet Harris, Together's Director, played an instrumental part in the Independent Advisory Group.

In addition, you may be interested to read the new research report from the Scottish Children's Reporter Administration (SCRA) which looks at the 'Backgrounds and outcomes for children aged 8-11 years old who have been referred to the Children's Reporter for Offending. This research highlights that for those 8-11 year olds being referred on offence grounds currently, the vast majority also have care and protection needs.

Finally, there are some useful international profiles, looking at how the age of criminal responsibility and youth justice services cater to children and young people in a range of other countries. These are available on:

A Scottish Government consultation on whether to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 12 is now open until June 10th. See our consultation page here.