Children under 12 will no longer be treated as offenders — if new bill passes

Children under 12 will no longer be treated as an offender beyond this autumn in Scotland, provided a new parliamentary bill receives support.

By Jonathon Reilly
Friday, 3rd May 2019, 12:50 pm
Updated Friday, 3rd May 2019, 12:50 pm

At present, although children under 12 cannot be prosecuted in court, they can be referred to the children’s hearings system on the basis they have committed an offence.

Under current legislation, this means children can gain a criminal record, often compromising childhoods and also limiting opportunities in adulthood, particularly around employment.

The Scottish Government is setting up a forum to consider whether the age of criminal responsibility should be raised from eight to 12, with a new Age of Criminal Responsibility Bill to be debated next week.

Children’s Minister Maree Todd said: “I will move as soon as possible to start making a difference to children’s lives.

“Should Parliament support the bill on Tuesday, children under 12 will benefit quickly. We will ensure that no child under 12 is treated as an offender beyond autumn this year.

“We will also make sure we recognise and respond to victims’ needs whilst reforming the way the hearings system responds to primary school-aged children.”