Bid to increase Age of Criminal Responsibility in Scotland

A bill has been published to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility in Scotland to 12 years old.

The current age of legal responsibility-eight-is the lowest in Europe. Currently an eight year old can go before a children’s hearing from the age of and have judgements added to their criminal record.

Currently any child over 8 can be brought before a Children’s Hearing Image Credit: Unlock the Law

The adjustment would mean that no child under 12 would receive a criminal record.

The age of criminal responsibility – when a child is considered capable of committing a crime and old enough to stand trial and be convicted of an offence – is currently set at 10 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.


Apex Scotland who work with offenders, ex-offenders and those at risk to give them the necessary skills to change their behaviour. A spokesperson for the charity told EN4News:

“It’s baby steps in the right direction. The current age is one of the lowest in any developed country throughout the world and it’s embarrassing. In most European countries the age of criminal responsibility is 16. It is progress but it is not enough progress-we want more-but at least we appear to be moving in the right direction. For some reason we appear to be more interested in punishing children then building a positive society for them to grow in.”

He would conclude by stating:

“In reality we do not treat kids like adults, so why should we legally judge them like that?”

The age of criminal prosecution in Scotland was raised to 12 in 2011, meaning younger children would be sent to children’s hearings instead of court.

When commenting on the policy, the Scottish government stated:

“(It is) about protecting children, reducing stigma and ensuring better future life chances, rather than reflecting a particular understanding of when an individual child in fact has the capacity to understand their actions”.

They said the police would get new powers to ensure they could still investigate the most serious incidents of harmful behaviour committed by children under 12.

Updates are expected on the new bill in parliament later this month.

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