The Scottish Government is to introduce legisation raising the age of criminal responsibility in Scotland from eight to 12.
Scotland currently has the lowest minimum age of criminal responsibility in Europe and this move will bring the country into line with UN and international standards. The minimum age in England and Wales is 10.
The increase will include safeguards to allow the police to deal with and investigate the most serious and exceptional offences involving under 12s.
Earlier this year, a Scottish Government consultation found that 95 per cent of respondents supported an increase to 12 or above.
In a statement to Parliament today, childcare and early years minister Mark McDonald said the case for change is “clear and compelling.”
He said: “Having the lowest minimum age of criminal responsibility in Europe does not match with our progressive approach to youth justice and ambitions to give children the best start in life.
“In 2010 we raised the age of criminal prosecution to 12 – meaning no-one under the age of 12 will be prosecuted or sentenced in the criminal courts and are instead dealt with through the Children’s Hearing System.
“Raising the age of criminal responsibility will mean people no longer face potentially damaging and life-altering consequences, such as a criminal record, for events that took place when they were a young child.
“I recognise that in exceptional cases appropriate safeguards are needed. Therefore we will ensure police powers to investigate harmful behaviour by under 12s, while there will be risk management and monitoring measures for those who need it.”