Minimum age of criminal responsibility set to rise from 8 to 12 in Scotland

Date: 19th March 2018
Category: Children in conflict with the law

Legislation has been introduced which will increase the age of criminal responsibility from 8 to 12, taking forward a longstanding recommendation from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.


If the legislation is passed, it will mean that a child under the age of 12 years can no longer commit an offence. Currently, although children under the age of 12 are not prosecuted in Scotland, information about an offence accepted or established through a Children's Hearing can continue to appear on their Disclosure Certificate or Protection of Vulnerable Groups scheme record well into adulthood. This information will no longer appear on a child's record if the Age of Criminal Responsibility (Scotland) Bill is passed in Parliament.


The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child called for an increase in the minimum age of criminal responsibility in both their 2008 and 2016 recommendations to the UK. Scotland is currently the only country in Europe where an eight-year-old can be treated as a criminal, with the average age across Europe being 14 years-old.


Together welcomes this move by the Scottish Government to bring Scotland in line with minimum international standards.