HLS Welcomes Increase in Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility

HLS Welcomes Increase in Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility

HLS are pleased to see the Scottish government has finally brought forward a Bill that will raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) from 8 to 12. Having a MACR set at eight years old meant Scotland had the lowest minimum age of criminal responsibility in Europe and one of the lowest in the world. At Howard League Scotland we have long campaigned for this change and are pleased to see the government move forward with this plan. This finally brings the MACR into line with the minimum age of prosecution.

However, we hope this is just the beginning and we would like to see consideration given to raising it further still. Raising the MACR does not mean refusing to hold children accountable for their actions, but it does mean ensuring that we avoid the criminalisation of children, and that we pay due attention to their welfare and educational needs. While this now means we have a higher MACR than England and Wales (where it is ten years old), the bar for measuring our success should not be limited to comparison with other UK governments. Scotland should aspire to be a European and international leader on the MACR as a matter of social justice and youth justice. 

The Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility: An International Snapshot: 

  • 13 years old in Greece and Poland
  • 14 years old in Bulgaria, Spain, Italy, Germany and Austria
  • 15 years old in Denmark, Norway and Sweden
  • 16 years old in Portugal and Romania and
  • 18 years old in Brazil and Luxembourg, and in Belgium for all but the most serious offences.

HLS welcome today’s change in the MACR. However, we hope this sparks ongoing debate and discussion about raising both the MACR and minimum age of prosecution further.

Read More:
Scottish Government: Minimum age of criminal responsibility


Category Youth Justice