Lack of reform to stop criminal records for children in Scotland

A group of charities representing children and young people has asked the Scottish Government to reconsider the issue of the age of criminal responsibility in Scotland. Although we have raised the minimum age for criminal prosecution to 12 years, criminal responsibility, and thus the potential to acquire a criminal record, starts at age 8.

Scotland therefore has one of the lowest ages of criminal responsibility worldwide as elsewhere in the world the age ranges from 6 (in Mexico) to 18 (in Columbia).

One study looked at 90 countries and calculated the mean average age of criminal responsibility as 12.5 years. Of the 90 countries only 12 had a lower age of criminal responsibility than in Scotland (excluding 4 that have no stated minimum). The UNCRC has previously recommended that the age should be raised both here and in England and Wales (where it is 10 years). Campaigners suggest that the current Criminal Justice Bill presents an opportunity for the Scottish Government to address this issue.

Dinah Aitken, SCCCJ.