CHS’ response to call for further evidence on the Age of Criminal Responsibility (Scotland) Bill 15 January 2019On Thursday (10 January 2019), the Scottish Parliament Equalities and Human Rights Committee reviewed a range of evidence submitted in response to questions raised by the Committee in its consideration of the Age of Criminal Responsibility (Scotland) Bill. The Bill, as currently drafted, proposes raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility from eight to 12 years of age. The Committee asked a number of organisations to provide a view on the feasibility of raising the age of criminal responsibility higher than 12 years and, if so, what the implications would be of raising the age to 14 or 16 years. As the organisation responsible for recruiting, training and supporting volunteer Panel Members to make the best possible decisions with and for children and young people in children’s hearings, we welcomed this call for further evidence and submitted evidence to the Committee. Our evidence focused on our role and functions within the Children’s Hearings System, and included a view on some of the wider issues that the Children’s Hearings System faces. We support calls for the age to be raised beyond 12 years to a level consistent with international good practice in youth justice. We are confident that Panel Members who make decisions in children’s hearings can play their part in ensuring Scotland’s Children;s Hearings System can effectively implement the age of criminal responsibility that Parliament determines. There are a number of issues we believe need further consideration in finalising the legislation (outlined below). Satisfactory resolution of these issues will help to ensure that Panel Members continue to make sound and credible decisions and that the public have confidence that victims and/or wider society will remain safe. Subject to these being clarified to provide reassurance, we would support raising the age of criminal responsibility to sixteen years. The issues include: Maintaining the paramountcy of the welfare principle when making decisions about the need for compulsory measures of supervision; The availability and nature of the services and support provided to young people whose behaviour presents significant risk and who would formerly have been prosecuted in court; Whether there should continue to be an element of discretion for local authorities regarding implementing a decision by a children’s hearing to authorise secure accommodation; Whether a new ground for referral is required subject to higher standard of proof in relation to behaviour of significant concern; Arrangements for continuing support or supervision for young people beyond 18 years; Appropriate and proportionate information and redress for victims of a young person’s harmful behaviour; Clarity around the role and powers of the police in investigating any behaviour, which would previously have been classified as an offence but which falls short of the test for an investigative interview and child interview order in sections 31 and 34 of the Bill. To read the full paper we submitted to the Scottish Parliament Equalities and Human Rights Committee click here.