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News: Minimum age of criminal responsibility legislation fully commenced

Posted 17 Dec, 2021 by Jennifer Drummond

Today marks the full commencement of the Age of Criminal Responsibility (Scotland) Act 2019 meaning children under the age of 12 years old can no longer be charged or arrested.

The Act was passed unanimously by the Scottish Parliament in May 2019, received Royal Assent in June 2019 and has been implemented in stages.

Speaking in 2019, then Children's Minister Maree Todd, said:

“We can be proud that Scotland is leading the way in the UK. This new law means that no child under 12 will ever again be arrested or charged with an offence in Scotland. But the Bill also ensures that serious harmful behaviour will be investigated appropriately, and victims will continue to get the support they need.”

The Act also places a statutory duty on the Scottish Ministers to provide guidance to Police Scotland on the use of a place of safety, provide a list of places of safety and provide statutory guidance on the investigative interview.

Scottish ministers have a duty to establish a register of child interview rights practitioners (ChIRPs) who will provide advice, support and assistance to children with their involvement in investigative interviews. A Code of Practice sets out the national standards that apply to all ChIRPs, as implemented by the Act.

Whilst raising the age of criminal responsibility has been welcomed across the children’s sector, some components of the Act have been criticised by the Bruce Adamson, Children and Young People’s Commissioner for Scotland.

Writing for Children in Scotland, he highlights the law means that Scotland’s age of criminal responsibility is still two years below the minimum international standard and draws attention to elements of the legislation which, he says, risk undermining children’s rights in relation to disclose, police powers and information sharing.

To support progress, and continual review of the legal minimum age of criminal responsibility, Scottish Ministers will continue to review the Act.

An advisory group, which includes Together, Centre for Youth and Criminal Justice, Scottish Children’s Report Administration, Social Work Scotland and Action for Children, has been established to support the review.

Click here to find out more about the Age of Criminal Responsibility (Scotland) Act 2019

Click here to read the comment by Bruce Adamson, published on our pages yesterday (16 December)