In a letter addressed to Scotland’s Minister for Children and Young People, Maree Todd MSP, published today, the Commissioner calls for an increase in the age of criminal responsibility and stronger safeguards in the treatment of children who come into conflict with the law.
“Children who come into conflict with the law should be treated as children first and foremost, with a focus on rehabilitation and restorative justice, rather than on repression and retribution”, writes the Commissioner. “Setting an appropriate age of criminal responsibility is one way of ensuring that children will be treated in a child-friendly way. I therefore warmly welcome that the Scottish Government has now put forward proposals to increase the age of criminal responsibility. At the same time, I am concerned that the current proposal to raise the minimum age from 8 to 12 still provides insufficient guarantees and would still leave Scotland behind the majority of Council of Europe member states, where the minimum age is often 14 or 15, and in some cases 16.”
The Commissioner also urges the government to increase the safeguards protecting the privacy and personal data of children who come into conflict with the law, including by ensuring that their personal data is not obtained by the media, and by limiting access to all records or documents containing personal and sensitive data. When the police handle cases of very young children who come into conflict with the law, they should also ensure that this is not perceived to be a criminal investigation, and that when children need to be brought to an emergency place of safety, suitable environments other than police stations are used.