Raise age of criminal responsibility to 16, says independent expert panel on youth justice

28 November 2018

The logo of Kilbrandon Again.

An independent enquiry jointly commissioned by our office and Action for Children has recommended raising Scotland’s minimum age of criminal responsibility to 16.

The recommendation is in line with the Commissioner’s view that the minimum age should be at least 16 in Scotland.

Kilbrandon Now , a report published by the Kilbrandon Again enquiry, also recommends:

  • an end to the imposition of long-term criminal records on children, and
  • the development of a new youth justice system for those aged 16 to 21.

The report’s publication comes after MSPs unanimously agreed to the general principles of the Age of Criminal Responsibility (Scotland) Bill . The Bill seeks to raise Scotland’s age of criminal responsibility from 8 – the lowest in Europe – to 12, an age still considered too low by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

Bruce Adamson , Children and Young People's Commissioner Scotland, said:

“This report rightly recognises the devastating impact of poverty and inequality on every aspect of children's lives, including their attainment, mental and physical health and risk of being drawn into conflict with the law. It is clear that that treating vulnerable children as criminals stigmatises them and can have a life-long impact, including on education and future employment.
“Half a century ago, Scotland made a commitment to a holistic and welfare-based system to address the needs and deeds of its children and young people, but our legal systems must continue to adapt in line with our developing understanding of human rights. Raising the age of criminal responsibility beyond the internationally accepted minimum of 14 and continuing to embed participation rights into practice are two ways in which we must do this. The overriding priority though is full incorporation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which would put in place the rights protections needed to meet the challenges the Kilbrandon Again panel has laid down.”

Read the Kilbrandon Now report.

About Kilbrandon Again

The Kilbrandon Again enquiry assessed how well Scotland supports children and young people in trouble through seeking the views of an independent panel featuring chair Richard Holloway, Kaliani Lyle and Ruth Wishart.

Our policy page on the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility.