Raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility in Scotland: law reform at last?


  • Elaine E Sutherland University of Stirling


Children in Scotland are held criminally responsible from the age of 8, something that has attracted wholly justified criticism within the country and from international organisations, including the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. Despite the fact that this puts Scots law in the same camp as some of the world’s least progressive regimes, proposals to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility have, to date, been rejected. For the second time this century, a government-appointed advisory group recently recommended raising the age to 12. Setting the minimum age of criminal responsibility in Scotland in the context of historical, international and comparative developments and the burgeoning contemporary literature, this article argues that the climate for change has never been better. It predicts that, this time, the advisory group’s recommendation will result in legislative reform and highlights the challenges that will result.