At present, children under 12 cannot be prosecuted in court in Scotland, but those aged 8 and over can be referred to the children’s hearing system on offence grounds, and convictions can stay on the child’s record into adulthood. However, at 8 years old, the age of criminal responsibility in Scotland remains below the rest of Europe and contradicts UN and other international standards. In the most recent UNCRC Committee’s Concluding Observations in 2016, it was once again recommended that Scotland raise the age of criminal responsibility to be in line with acceptable international standards. It also noted Scotland’s openness to raising the age of criminal responsibility as a welcome step.

In 2016, Scottish Government facilitated a public consultation about the age of criminal responsibility in Scotland. This consultation process aimed to gather the views of children, young people, professionals and agencies about raising the age of criminal responsibility and to develop the proposed safeguards that would be put in place to support this change in legislation. As part of this wider consultation, Children’s Parliament was commissioned to consult with children about this issue and the children’s views and ideas were shared with the Scottish Government in a report.

Following the full public consultation, the Minister for Early Years and Childcare made a statement in Scottish Parliament committing to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 12 years old in Scotland. Since this announcement, Scottish Government have been in the process of drafting a bill to raise the age of criminal responsibility, which went before Scottish Parliament in March 2018.

As part of the process of drafting this bill, Scottish Government was keen to follow up with children about issues and questions that have arisen since the initial consultation. We facilitated creative workshops that addressed the following questions:

  • What is human dignity? How is your dignity respected or disrespected?
  • What worries or questions might children have if they become involved in the youth justice system?
  • What kind of relationship should the police have with children? How should they speak to and behave towards children?
  • What information is recorded on a ‘child’s record?

The consultation workshops involved a total of 47 Members of Children’s Parliament (MCPs) between the ages of 9 and 15 years old from Edinburgh, South Lanarkshire and Inverness.

Project Report

Click here to view the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility Report 2016.

Click here to view the Age of Criminal Responsibility Report 2018


Consultations facilitated on behalf of the Scottish Government