Responsibility is an age-old debate
At what age can a young person truly be said to be responsible for his or her actions?
Currently the age of criminal responsibility in Scotland is just eight – the lowest in Europe.
New legislation will see that rise to 12, but there are growing calls to raise it still further to 16.
Meanwhile, there are also calls for a new “youth justice system” catering for offenders up to the age of 21.
Doubtless there are laudable aims behind the proposals, but any further changes must be very carefully considered.
Already, our young people can pass through the court system anonymously.
Will further protections help to reduce offending, or merely reinforce a sense that some people are getting off scot-free?
Justice is a balancing act, but if the scales are to be tipped it must be in favour of wider society, not the criminal fraternity.
In an ideal world, nobody under the age of 16 would even consider committing a criminal act.
Sadly the reality does not always match that ideal. The new report suggesting a heightened age for criminal responsibility comes at a sensitive time, in the wake of the death of 16-year-old William Lindsay, who took his own life in Polmont Young Offenders Institution.
Cool heads will need to prevail if a sensible, fair – and indeed just – solution is to be found.