UN launch consultation to raise minimum age of criminal responsibility to 14 years old days after Scottish Parliament debate Bill to raise the age from 8 to 12 years old

Date: 16th November 2018
Category: General Comments, Age of criminal responsibility


The Age of Criminal Responsibility (Scotland) Bill - to raise the age from age 8 to 12 – was debated at Stage 1 by MSPs in Parliament on Tuesday 13th November 2018. 

The following day, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child launched a consultation on a revised General Comment No. 10 on children's rights in juvenile justice.  The draft General Comment states “In the original general comment No. 10 (2007), the Committee had considered 12 years as the absolute minimum age. However, the Committee finds that this age indication is still low. States parties are encouraged to increase their minimum age to at least 14 years of age. At the same time, the Committee commends States parties that have a higher minimum age, for instance 15 or 16 years of age”.

The UN Committee's draft General Comment reflects developing international norms. Out of 28 EU Member States, 23 have a MACR of 14 or above. Finland, Norway, Sweden & Iceland all have a MACR of 15 years old. It also reflects the 2014 Council of Europe’s resolution "Child-friendly juvenile justice: from rhetoric to reality" which calls for a minimum age of criminal responsibility of "at least 14 years of age".

The revised UN General Comment No.10 is important as the Age of Criminal Responsibility (Scotland) Bill progresses through Scottish Parliament. At Stage 1, some members of Scottish Parliament Equalities and Human Rights Committee asked "...why should the same opportunities not be afforded to a young person of 14, 16 or even 18?"

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has been consistently critical of the current age of criminal responsibility in Scotland, which is currently eight years of age – the lowest in Europe. Together joins many who have called for minimum age to be raised to 14 at the absolute minimum as outlined in our consultation response to the Scottish Government last year. Such an amendment would better uphold children and young people’s human rights and align with the age of criminal responsibility standards set by other countries across Europe.