On 10 January 2019, the Commissioner provided evidence in the form of a letter to the Equalities and Human Rights Committee of the Scottish Parliament regarding the Age of Criminal Responsibility (Scotland) Bill. In her letter, the Commissioner provides further clarification to the Committee about her previous call on the Scottish Government to increase the age of criminal responsibility to 14 at least, but preferably higher, rather than to 12, as proposed by the Government.
In her letter the Commissioner noted that, despite the specific features of the Scottish system of dealing with children who come into conflict with the law, international human rights standards on the age of criminal responsibility are developed to provide minimum safeguards regardless of member states’ diversity of laws, policies and practices. She also noted that setting an appropriately high age of criminal responsibility would have important implications for the protection of the rights of children who come into conflict with the law, even if few are prosecuted in courts in Scotland.
Setting the age of criminal responsibility at 14 as an absolute minimum, but with a higher age being preferable, “would exclude a larger group of children from being dealt with as offenders in the Scottish system”, said the Commissioner. This, she added, would “help further strengthen the system’s focus on protecting vulnerable children who engage in harmful behavior.”