The Scottish Government are seeking views on the principle of raising the age of criminal responsibility from 8 to 12.
The age of criminal responsibility is a significant and complex policy area, which raises sensitivities due to the potential for rare, serious cases involving young children. Children under 12 cannot be prosecuted in court in Scotland, but those aged 8 and over can be referred to the children’s hearings system on offence grounds.
The minimum age of prosecution was set at 12 through changes in the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010, however it has not ended discussions on the issue. In Autumn 2015, the Scottish Government established an Advisory Group to give detailed consideration to the issues and implications associated with the minimum age of criminal responsibility, and to make sure they could be properly addressed in advance of a consultation. The Advisory Group’s report has recommended that the age of criminal responsibility be raised from 8 to 12, and that such a move be accompanied by a number of proposed supporting safeguards.
The consultation runs to the 10 June 2016 and respondents are encouraged to read the Advisory Group report (bit.ly/advisory-group-report) on Age of Criminal Responsibility before responding. Associated documents including SCRA research(bit.ly/SCRA-Research) and the Children’s Rights and Wellbeing Impacts Assessment (bit.ly/CRWIA-Report) provide useful context.