SNP Bill set to contravene new UN guidelines

Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton today demanded the age of criminal responsibility be raised to at least 14 after it emerged that the Scottish Government's current Bill is set to fall short of new international demands expected to be adopted by the UN next year.

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child is revising its recommendations on the minimum age of criminal responsibility. It has now issued a public consultation on proposals to raise the minimum age to 14, while also "commending" states who set a higher age.

The Scottish Government's Age of Criminal Responsibility (Scotland) Bill, which passed stage one in the Scottish Parliament last week, would see the age of criminal responsibility rise from 8 to 12 - a level the new UN document describes as "still low". It is over a decade since the UN recommended 12 as an “absolute minimum” baseline.

The Children and Young People's Commissioner for Scotland will brief MSPs on this on Thursday. 

Mr Cole-Hamilton said:

"The Scottish Government failed to respond to UN demands on child rights for over a decade. It has taken so long that the UN is now in the process of updating its advice. The SNP can't be content with our being left behind and in contravention of an international minimum all over again.

"Expert after expert told the Committee that raising the age of criminal responsibility to 12, as the Bill proposes, doesn't go far enough. The UN looks set to agree.

"It would be an international embarrassment if this legislation set the age at 12 just as 14 is formally adopted as the new worldwide minimum. It is time SNP ministers admitted this legislation is not progressive enough. It will be out of date before the ink is dry. They must agree to amendments I will table raising the age to at least 14."

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