Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton, who sits on the Equalities and Human Rights Committee, has lodged amendments to the Age of Criminal Responsibility (Scotland) Bill to raise the age from 8 to 16, rather than the Scottish Government’s preference of 12.
The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child is revising its recommendations on the minimum age of criminal responsibility. The Committee is expected to set the age at 14 early next year, while also "commending" states who set a higher age. It is over a decade since it said 12 was the “absolute minimum”.
The Scottish Liberal Democrat amendments allow for the age to be raised as high as 16. The move follows the publication of a report commissioned by Scotland’s Children and Young People's Commissioner, Bruce Adamson, urging ministers to raise the age to 16.
Alex Cole-Hamilton said:
“The SNP have been dragged kicking and screaming to raise the age of criminal responsibility. The fact that they blocked Lib Dem attempts to increase it to 12 twice in the last Parliament means Scotland remains the only country in the EU where a 9-year-old’s choices can still have to be declared at 29, destroying their chance of getting on.
“I want to see the age of criminal responsibility raised to 16. This is the level we should be aspiring for. It is the level the UN is set to commend and would take Scotland to the forefront of progressive practice in Europe. Those younger would still be dealt with properly through the more appropriate children’s hearing system.
“The Bill the SNP Government has put before Parliament would still leave Scotland at the bottom of the pack.
“After trailing behind international standards for years, it’s time for us to get ahead of the curve when it comes to protecting our children. It’s wrong that vulnerable children, whose mistakes can often be traced to circumstances outwith their control, can find themselves being punished for the rest of their lives.”