Age of criminal responsibility raised, but falls short of UN recommendation

Scottish Parliament MSP office windows Image credit: dun_deagh, Flickr:

Primary school-aged children will no longer be arrested and treated as offenders, following the passing of the Age of Criminal Responsibility Bill.

The Bill will make far-reaching changes to the way that the law treats children under 12.

Evidence shows that early involvement in formal criminal justice systems can be severely detrimental to children and their future behaviour.

The UN has long called for Scotland to raise the age of criminal responsibility but many human rights defenders are disappointed that the age was not raised to 14.

10 years ago, in their General Comment No 10, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child said that 12 is the absolute minimum that’s acceptable, and that countries should raise it to a higher age. And the Committee are currently revising this General Comment so that 14 is the minimum acceptable age.

The Children and Young People Commissioner for Scotland states ‘The starting point should be discussion on raising it to 18, and we think the minimum age of criminal responsibility should be at least 16 in Scotland.’

The new law includes an amendment to review the Bill to consider the future age of criminal responsibility. A new expert advisory group will be set up to take forward this review.




Image credit: dun_deagh, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

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