Age of Criminal Responsibility (Scotland) Act – data gathering

The Age of Criminal Responsibility (Scotland) Act 2019 fully commenced on December 17, 2021. This brings important changes to the rights of all children under 12 years of age.

A vital part of the changes this introduces for children under 12 is to protect them from the harmful effects of early criminalisation, while ensuring they receive the right support and reduce stigma.  Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) emphasises the need to take a child-centred approach, understanding the wellbeing of a child in their current situation, taking into consideration the wider influences on a child and their developmental needs.

It is essential that all agencies who work to support and meet the needs of children across Scotland ensure that their processes and  practice reflect this important change.

The Act raises the age of criminal responsibility to 12 years and provides new specific investigative powers for police investigating the most serious cases of harmful behaviour and new duties for Local Authorities.

All investigative and planning activity triggered by a child’s believed harmful behaviour must have regard for the child’s wellbeing as a primary consideration. Interventions must aim to protect children, reduce stigma and ensure better future life chances.

Police and statutory services will take action to protect the safety and meet the needs of those involved in the situation, including the victim(s) and the community. Close collaborative working between police, social work and core services is essential at all stages.

The Act brings new processes and duties and we are keen to learn from this, share learning and continuously improve.

CYCJ is gathering data to understand the impact that the legislation has for children under 12 years old who have been involved in serious harmful behaviour and to inform the future direction of the age of criminal responsibility in Scotland. To assist with this, we are asking Local Authority Social Work to fill out the data collection form to the best of their knowledge, where ACR legislation  has been used or was considered. Please contact for more information.

Social Work Scotland have produced guidance contains information to support Police Scotland and Local Authorities in the application of their operational duties, under the Age of Criminal Responsibility (Scotland) Act 2019 (the Act).

Contact Us

Children's and Young People's Centre for Justice
University of Strathclyde
Lord Hope Building, Level 6
141 St. James Road Glasgow G4 0LT

(0141) 444 8622

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