Policy actions  3 of 3

Raising the age of criminal responsibility

At 8 years of age, Scotland's age of criminal responsibility is the lowest in Europe.

Despite the increase to the minimum age of prosecution to 12 years in 2011, there have long been calls for the age of criminal responsibility in Scotland to be raised.

These calls have come both from the United Nations and children's organisations.

In November 2015, we established an advisory group to consider the policy, legislative and procedural implications of raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 8 to 12 years.

The group took into account the implications of change and developed proposals for consultation.

Following this, we carried out a consultation exercise looking for views on:

  • whether the age should be raised
  • the main implications in relation to care and protection
  • risk
  • police powers
  • disclosure
  • the role of the Children's Hearings System

Analysis of responses showed that 95% of respondents supported an increase to 12 or above.

In March 2018 we introduced legislation to the Scottish Parliament to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 8 to 12: Age of Criminal Responsibility (Scotland) Bill

The Parliament unanimously agreed to the general principles of the bill in November 2018. The Parliament's Equalities and Human Rights Committee completed its detailed examination of the bill in February 2019.

See the bill as amended at stage 2 of the legislative process 

The bill will be considered once again by the entire Parliament at stage 3.