Children’s Commissioner says 12 is not an acceptable age of criminal responsibility

Responding to the evidence given by the Children’s Commissioner to the Equality & Human Rights Committee this morning, Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton has pressed for the Scottish Government to back his amendments to raise the age of criminal responsibility to at least meet the new international minimum of 14, and possibly go higher to 16.

The Children’s Commissioner, Bruce Adamson, argued that 14 was the minimum international standard and stressed that he would be “remiss” in his role if he was to “recommend to this Parliament that we take a view that’s below the international standard”. He also said he was “hugely concerned” that the SNP Government’s current plans would leave Scotland below the minimum standard which would “not serve Scotland’s children”.

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child is updating its recommendations on the minimum age of criminal responsibility. The Committee is expected to set the age at 14 next month, while also "commending" states who set a higher age. It is over a decade since it said 12 was the “absolute minimum”.

Alex Cole-Hamilton has lodged a range of amendments calling for the age to be raised to either 14 or 16.

Alex Cole-Hamilton said:

“The Children’s Commissioner didn’t mince his words. He has given the Scottish Government fresh reason to back my amendments raising the age of criminal responsibility to at least 14 or preferably 16.

“12 is an unacceptable age of criminal responsibility and would undermine our ambition for Scotland to be a leader in human rights. The Scottish Government must, at the very least, proceed with haste to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14, with a view to increasing it to 16 once the necessary work has been done to accommodate that.

“Scotland has been trailing behind international standards for years. It’s really time we caught up.”

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