MSPs to examine plans to raise age of criminal responsibility

MSPs are seeking views on plans to raise the age of criminal responsibility in Scotland from eight to 12.

Convener Christina McKelvie MSP said the whole committee would want to see the rights of young people respected. Picture: TSPL

Holyrood’s Equalities and Human Rights Committee particularly wants to hear the views of young people and ex-offenders on proposals put forward by the Scottish Government.

Currently children under the age of 12 cannot be prosecuted in court in Scotland, but those aged eight and older can be referred to the children’s hearings system for offending and can end up with a criminal record.

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The proposed legislation would change the age from being the lowest in Europe to being in line with the UN’s minimum internationally acceptable age of criminal responsibility.

The age threshold is 10 in the rest of the UK.

The committee also wants the views of academics, people working in the criminal justice sector and victims of crime.

Convener Christina McKelvie MSP said: “The age you become responsible for your actions is fundamental to the criminal justice system and could have a major impact on a young person’s life.

“Balancing the rights of young people, victims of crime and wider society means that there is a lot of important detail in this legislation. That’s why we want to hear from as many people as possible.

“The whole committee would want to see a safe society and the rights of young people respected - we need to work out how best to achieve that aim.”

MSPs will also look at the disclosure of offences committed by those under the age of 12, the impact of the change on victims and whether police have suitable powers to deal with offending by under-12s.