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Bid lodged to raise age of criminal responsibility to 12

Children as young as eight can be given a criminal record in Scotland under existing law.

Change: It is hoped the new law would 'turn around' children's lives.
Change: It is hoped the new law would 'turn around' children's lives. STV

The age of criminal responsibility will rise to 12 under new plans lodged by the Scottish Government.

Deputy first minister John Swinney has lodged a bill at the Scottish Parliament which if passed would end the practice of children as young as eight receiving criminal records.

Scotland's age of responsibility is currently the lowest in Europe, with the rest of UK having an age threshold of 10.

Concerning or harmful behaviour by children aged under 12 would be dealt with by new measures which would see Police Scotland able to investigate the most serious incidents.

Early years minister Maree Todd: "All children deserve the best possible start in life and this legislation marks a key milestone in Scotland's journey to ensure children are respected and valued.

"We know the actions of children who harm others are often a symptom of trauma in their own lives and that accruing a criminal record actually drives more offending.

"This legislation will help turn around the lives of troubled, primary school age children-who are often vulnerable themselves-by addressing their deeds in the context of supporting their needs.

"Importantly, the bill contains measures to provide reassurance to victims and communities that serious incidents will still be responded to appropriately."

The proposed change would mean children aged 8 to 11 can no longer be referred to a children's panel hearing on the ground that they have committed an offence.

Scottish Conservative shadow justice secretary Liam Kerr said: "This is an issue of high importance, and we look forward to analysing the evidence and taking part in the debate.

"There's no question that Scotland does have a lower-than-normal age of criminal responsibility.

"But any decision must consider a range of factors, not least victims of crime."

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