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Children should not be criminalised – raise the age of responsibility to 16

While the Scottish Government has proposed to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 8 years of age to 12, Children in Scotland is joining partners across the children and young people’s sector in calling for this to be increased to a minimum of 14, and preferably to 16 or even 18.

We have long supported an increase in the age of criminal responsibility, and with this in mind we are organising a meeting of the Cross-Party Group on children and young people addressing this topic on Wednesday 6 February.

Jackie Brock, Chief Executive at Children in Scotland, said:

“At eight years old, Scotland’s age of criminal responsibility has lagged behind the rest of Europe and held us back from achieving the stated aim of the Scottish Government to make Scotland ‘the best place to grow up’.

“While we welcome the improvement represented by the Age of Criminal Responsibility (Scotland) Bill (click here to read) , raising the age to 12 years simply does not go far enough. In fact, such progress cannot be considered progressive at all given that this was the minimum standard identified by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child 10 years ago.

“The newly launched National Performance Framework underscores a commitment to ‘respect, protect and fulfil human rights’, but such a vision cannot be made meaningful while Scotland fails to meet with international best practice on this crucial issue.

“Importantly, we must recognise that that many children become known to the criminal justice system largely due to significant issues faced at home, and evidence such as the landmark Kilbrandon report has identified that support, rather than punishment, is more in line with a rights-based approach for children.

“Mindful of this context, we welcome and echo the calls of our colleagues in Together (Scottish Alliance for Children's Rights) and the Children and Young People's Commissioner for Scotland to raise the age of criminal responsibility and criminal prosecution to 16.”

Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP has lodged an amendment to the Bill which would increase the age of responsibility to 16, and another amendment to increase the age to 14 in the event that the first amendment is unsuccessful.

If you wish to attend the upcoming Cross-Party Group on this issue, please contact Children in Scotland Policy officer Chris Ross by emailing

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