Scotland politics

Call for age change on child criminal responsibility

Group of youths
Image caption Young people have to be 12 years old to be prosecuted in Scotland

The age of criminal responsibility in Scotland should be raised, according to a group of 12 charities.

They have asked the Scottish government to increase the minimum age at which children can be held responsible for crimes from eight to 12.

The charities said they were concerned about young children having a criminal record which could affect their future.

The Scottish government has pointed out that children under 12 are no longer prosecuted for criminal behaviour.

Anne Houston, the chief executive of Children 1st, said: "It's the Scottish government's ambition to make Scotland the best place for children to grow up: a country where they are protected, their rights are respected and support given where needed.

"Our organisations view raising the age of criminal responsibility for children as one of the key actions needed to help make this vision reality.

"In Scotland, we are rightly proud of the unique and progressive children's hearings system which addresses children's needs and deeds. Yet this approach is let down by legislation which effectively labels children as criminals."

The charities said further changes should be underpinned by legislation.

Ms Houston added: "Scottish Ministers have pledged to consider raising the age of criminal responsibility and to bring forward any legislative change in the lifetime of this parliament. We would like the Scottish government to act on this commitment by including an appropriate measure in the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill and are keen to discuss how this might be achieved."

A Scottish government spokeswoman said: "We raised the minimum age of prosecution from eight to 12 in the Criminal Justice and Licensing Act 2010.

"We will consider calls for the minimum age of criminal responsibility to increase."

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