Plea to further increase age of criminal responsibility

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The Scottish Government has been urged to be more ambitious in plans to raise the age of criminal responsibility.

MSPs approved proposals in principle to raise the age from eight to 12 in a vote in Holyrood on Tuesday.

Scotland currently has one of the lowest ages of criminal responsibility in the world at eight.

If passed, the Age of Criminal Responsibility (Scotland) Bill would increase the age to surpass that currently in place in England at Wales, which is 10.

But the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child this week published its draft revised guidance recommending that the minimum acceptable standard should be 14, which is the age already required by the Council of Europe.

In a letter to the Equalities and Human Rights Committee, the commissioner for children and young people in Scotland, Bruce Adamson, urged ministers to go further.

Mr Adamson said: “Setting the age of criminal responsibility at 12 was never intended to be a progressive standard to aim for, rather it was the absolute minimum in 2007 for those states who were worst performing in human rights terms.

“The UN is now clarifying its position in line with the Council of Europe that 14 is the absolute minimum, and that progressive countries should be going much higher.

“Criminalising children does not guarantee non-repetition – in fact it creates the risk of more harm.”

The commissioner’s call came days before Mikiko Otani, a member of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) visits Scotland to attend the Children’s Parliament and meet with ministers.

Moving the Bill on Tuesday, the Scottish Government’s Children’s Minister Maree Todd said: “We should be very honest with ourselves as parliamentarians – only a few years ago, we wouldn’t be here with a consensus right across this chamber that the age of criminal responsibility should be raised.

“Now our discussions are about what age to raise criminal responsibility to and on what safeguards and other issues need to be addressed. That is a significant and welcome shift.”

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