The Age of Criminal Responsibility (Scotland) Act 2019 increases the age of criminal responsibility in Scotland to 12 years of age. This means that primary school-aged children will no longer be dealt with as criminal suspects which requires a meaningful departure from criminal investigative techniques and experiences.
Whilst the policy intention of the Act is to protect younger children from the harmful effects of criminalisation, incidents of harmful behaviour need to be effectively investigated and responded to appropriately. Serious incidents must be met with a compassionate, sensitive, proportionate and effective response, addressing the needs of children, families, victims and the wider community.
The Act provides powers for the police to investigate incidents of serious harm. In this, the Act requires that all involved in such an investigation treat the need to promote and safeguard the child’s wellbeing as a primary consideration. In addition, children whose behaviour is being investigated will have access to independent advice, support and assistance. They will receive information in age-appropriate ways and have a right to appeal. There will also be safeguards in place to prevent forensic samples and prints taken from these children from being kept unnecessarily.
This guidance aims to support police, local authorities and others with functions related to investigative interviews under the Act, ensuring that these are carried out in a child-centred way in keeping with the ethos of removing young children from criminal justice processes.
We would like to thank Police Scotland, Social Work Scotland and all partners who have been instrumental in developing this guidance.
Keith Brown MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Veterans
Clare Haughey MSP, Minister for Children and Young People
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