Today (29 November 2019) marks a key milestone in the implementation of Age of Criminal Responsibility (Scotland) Act 2019, as sections 3 and 27 of the Act come into force.
The purpose of the Act is to increase the age of criminal responsibility from 8 to 12 years of age, and from today, 29 November 2019, children under 12 can only be referred by a Reporter to a Children's Hearing on care and protection grounds and not on offence grounds.
The Scottish Government is developing statutory guidance and drafting the secondary legislation required to commence section 1 to raise the age of criminal responsibility and for the other provisions of the new legislation to come into force.
This reform is based on evidence gathered during a Scottish Government consultation, that responding to childhood behaviour in a criminalising, stigmatising way serves only to promote escalation and further harm. Scotland has proven approaches to confronting and correcting childhood behaviour that do not need a criminal justice response; with the great majority of children under 16 who commit offences being dealt with through the Children's Hearings system, rather than by the criminal justice system.
Appropriate support and information will continue to be available to victims, irrespective of the age of the person responsible for the harm.