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The Age of Criminal Responsibility (Scotland) Bill introduced 15/03/2018 The age of criminal responsibility in Scotland is set to rise from eight to 12, under legislation introduced to the Scottish Parliament.

The Age of Criminal Responsibility (Scotland) Bill introduced

The age of criminal responsibility in Scotland is set to rise from eight to 12, under legislation introduced to the Scottish Parliament. It follows a consultation in which 95% of respondents supported an increase to 12 or above.

The Age of Criminal Responsibility (Scotland) Bill will further embed the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into Scottish life. It will mean the minimum age of criminal responsibility in Scotland is the highest in the UK, compared to age ten in Northern Ireland, England and Wales.

The changes to be brought in by the legislation mean that, where appropriate, the behaviour of children under 12 will continue to be addressed in the children’s hearings system. When it comes into force, children aged 8-11 will no longer be referred to a children’s hearing on the ground that they have committed an offence and no child will receive a conviction for their behaviour when under 12.

The Bill also means:

  • fewer children entering the criminal justice system as they grow into adulthood
  • the age of criminal responsibility will be brought into line with the current minimum age of prosecution in Scotland
  • any information on harmful or concerning behaviour involving children under the age of 12 will no longer be disclosed automatically but will be subject to independent review on a case by case basis
  • harmful behaviour involving children under 12 will continue to be addressed with bespoke new measures introduced to ensure police can thoroughly investigate the most serious incidents
  • victims of harm will continue to receive appropriate support and information.

“All children deserve the best possible start in life and this legislation marks a key milestone in Scotland’s journey to ensure children are respected and valued,” said Early Years Minister Maree Todd. “We know the actions of children who harm others are often a symptom of trauma in their own lives and that accruing a criminal record actually drives more offending. This legislation will help turn around the lives of troubled, primary school age children - who are often vulnerable themselves – by addressing their deeds in the context of supporting their needs.”

“Importantly, the Bill contains measures to provide reassurance to victims and communities that serious incidents will still be responded to appropriately,” she said.

 

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