Age of Criminal Responsibility in Scotland

Changes to the law and what this means

17 December, 2021

Today marks a major change to legislation surrounding the age of criminal responsibility in Scotland, meaning the law will be raised from 8 to 12 years old.

The new legislation means that if someone is under the age of 12 years old and commits a crime, and becomes involved with the police, they will instead be given further support to avoid being involved in the law.

If you are the victim of a crime committed by someone who may be under the age of 12, it is important to know that the law exists to protect and help you. The actions of the offender will be taken seriously, and Police Scotland will continue to investigate crimes and respond to the needs to victims.

This change in law is in place to protect vulnerable young people who may get involved in crime, while also keeping the general public protected from harm.

Kate Wallace, Chief Executive of Victim Support Scotland, comments: “The age of criminal responsibility being raised to 12 recognises the vulnerability of some young people in society and the need to improve rehabilitation opportunities. While we understand the need for this change in law, what is equally important is that people that have come through crime – victims, witnesses and families – have consistent support in place and that justice is served either within the adult or child system and that victims are given consistent information in relation to what has happened to them.

“As Scotland’s leading charity for everyone after crime, our focus is on the impact of crime on people psychologically, physically and financially. We know only too well the long-term damaging impact that crime can have. With this change in law, it is therefore important that the justice system recognises this and continues to adapt to ensure that protections are in place for wider public good and safety.”

If you are the victim of a crime, Victim Support Scotland is here to help you. Our free support is available to anyone who has been a victim of crime, regardless of their background, and if the crime has been reported.

Changes to the law and what this means - information for children & their families