Move to raise criminal age to 14 or 16 is rejected

Scotland currently planning to raise age of criminal responsibility from 8 to 12

Tes Reporter

Move to raise criminal age to 14 or 16 is rejected

MSPs have voted against attempts to raise the age of criminal responsibility in Scotland to either 14 or 16.

Liberal Democrat Alex Cole-Hamilton lodged amendments to a planned new law to increase the age from 8 to 12, arguing that a further increase would be in line with international responsibilities.

The current age is one of the lowest in the world, and below the rest of the UK at 10.

During a debate on the Age of Criminal Responsibility (Scotland) Bill at stage two at Scottish Parliament's Equalities and Human Rights Committee, Mr Cole-Hamilton said the United Nations would increase the baseline age from the current 12 to 14 in the coming days.

He said: "Unamended, this bill is an embarrassment...I will only vote for this bill because the current age of criminal responsibility in Scotland is, quite frankly, medieval."

He said history, the international community and the children affected will judge the government for not backing the further increase, which he said wrecks any claim that Scotland is a human rights champion.

His amendments to raise the age of criminal responsibility to either 14 or 16 were all voted down by five votes to two.

Mr Cole-Hamilton was backed by Labour's Mary Fee in voting for the change, while the SNP and Conservative committee members voted against it.

The Lib Dem MSP said that last year 11 cases against 12- and 13-year-olds committing offences were taken to court. He argued that this shot down the government's case that a further increase from the age of 12 would cause a capacity issue.

Children and young people minister Maree Todd urged the committee not to back the amendments for a further age rise.

Ms Todd had "significant concerns" about using the bill to raise the age past 12, highlighting worries about the readiness to deal with further increases, which she said would require additional primary legislation.

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