Together’s Director presents to Cross Party Group about raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility
Date: 5th March 2019
Category: Civil Rights and Freedoms, General measures of implementation, Special protection measures, Age of criminal responsibility
Together’s Director spoke at a recent meeting of the Cross-Party Group on Children and Young People. The meeting on 6th February 2019 was convened to discuss the Age of Criminal Responsibility (Scotland) Bill. The Bill currently proposes raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 8 years old (the lowest in Europe) to 12.
Panel members noted that whilst the Age of Criminal Responsibility (Scotland) Bill raises that minimum age to 12 years old, this falls short of the Council of Europe standard of a minimum age of 14 years-old, which will shortly be reflected in revised guidance soon to be issued by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights has specifically called on Scotland to raise its minimum age of criminal responsibility to at least 14.
- Read the UN Committee’s draft revised guidance here.
- Read the Council of Europe Commissioner’s letters from December 2018 and January 2019.
Together’s Director emphasised that discussions around raising the minimum age have been taking place for over a decade and that reform is now long overdue. She highlighted that the original Scottish Government Action Plan, “Do the Right Thing”, is now 10 years old. She referred to its subsequent Progress Report (2012) which spoke of bringing forth legislation within that Parliamentary term. This did not happen.
Together’s Director noted that whilst the Advisory Group Report supported raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 12, many of the arguments made within the it are equally applicable to raising the age to 14.
She emphasised that the celebration in Scotland around raising the minimum age to 12 years old could be contrasted with the situation in the Philippines, where a recent move to lower the minimum age to 12 from 15 has been met with international outrage.
In her concluding comments, Together’s Director noted that if it is not possible for the Bill to reflect a higher age of 14 or 16 years old immediately, then a commitment to review the age in future should be placed on the face of the Bill itself. This supported a point made by Professor Ann Skelton, member of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, in her evidence before the Equalities and Human Rights Committee given on 17th January 2019.
Following the meeting of the Cross-Party Group, the Bill passed Stage 2 on 7th February 2019. The Bill is now at Stage 3 and a will be subject to further debate in the Scottish Parliament Chamber.