The Law Society of Scotland has welcomed a parliamentary bill to raise the age of criminal responsibility in Scotland today, 14 March 2018.

Stuart Munro, from the Law Society of Scotland’s criminal law committee, said: “Scotland’s age of criminal responsibility, at eight years of age, is currently the lowest in Europe and we are very pleased to see the Age of Criminal Responsibility (Scotland) Bill introduced to the Scottish Parliament.

“The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has said that setting the age of criminal responsibility below 12 is not ‘internationally acceptable’ and we have argued for several years that a child of eight is too young to be held criminally responsible. The interests of the child must be paramount and it is crucial that their welfare is the focus of attention, even in the difficult circumstances of offending behaviour. We do not think that children under the age of 12 should have their actions recorded as criminal.

“There are also inconsistencies in our law in that the age of criminal responsibility is currently eight years, but the age at which a child can be prosecuted is 12. This creates confusion in people’s understanding of criminal law and how it relates to children. Raising the age will bring it in line with the existing age of criminal prosecution in Scotland, providing clarity in the law, and will ensure that children are not treated and then labelled as offenders because of things they did when they were under 12 years old.”

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