Chil­dren un­der 12 no longer crim­i­nals

Evening Times - - NEWS -

ANEW law has come into force mean­ing no chil­dren un­der 12 will be treated as of­fend­ers in the Scot­tish jus­tice sys­tem.

The Age of Crim­i­nal Re­spon­si­bil­ity (Scot­land) Act 2019 was passed unan­i­mously in May, with Chil­dren’s Min­is­ter Ma­ree Todd de­scrib­ing the pas­sage of the Bill as a “his­toric day”. But de­spite the unan­i­mous ap­proval for the new law, Lib­eral Demo­crat Alex Cole-Hamil­ton called for the age to be lifted even higher – to ei­ther 14 or 16.

He claimed the “in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity will judge this Gov­ern­ment as a fail­ure on hu­man rights” for not push­ing the age fur­ther.

The UN Com­mit­tee on the Rights of the Child has de­manded the age of crim­i­nal re­spon­si­bil­ity in Scot­land be raised to 14 “im­me­di­ately”, while the Chil­dren and Young Peo­ple’s Com­mis­sioner for Scot­land Bruce Adam­son has also made his view clear that 14 is the “low­est ac­cept­able age”.

But Todd said: “Th­ese new pro­vi­sions mean that the be­hav­iour of chil­dren un­der 12 in Scot­land will no longer re­sult in them be­ing treated as of­fend­ers in the chil­dren’s hear­ings sys­tem.

“Ev­i­dence shows that re­spond­ing to child­hood be­hav­iour in a crim­i­nal­is­ing, stig­ma­tis­ing way serves only to pro­mote es­ca­la­tion and fur­ther harm. That is nei­ther in the in­ter­ests of the child, nor of the safety of our com­mu­ni­ties.”

She added: “The Act will de­liver a pro­gres­sive, child-cen­tred ap­proach that will make a real dif­fer­ence to chil­dren’s lives, while vic­tims will con­tinue to get the sup­port they need.”

Ac­tion for Chil­dren’s Paul Car­berry said: “The in­tro­duc­tion of th­ese pro­vi­sions is a ma­jor step for­ward and some­thing that is far more con­sis­tent with Scot­land’s ap­proach of preven­tion and early in­ter­ven­tion.”

From to­day, pri­mary-school age chil­dren will no longer be able to be re­ported to a chil­dren’s hear­ing for an of­fence.

The Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment said chil­dren un­der the age of 12 who com­mit an of­fence will have their needs ad­dressed with­out be­ing treated as a crim­i­nal.

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