Age of Criminal Responsibility (Scotland) Act 2019 (ACRA)
The Age of Criminal Responsibility (Scotland) Act 2019 was implemented on 17 December 2021, raising the age of criminal responsibility from 8 to 12 years old. A child under the age of 12 can no longer be held criminally responsible for harmful behaviour that amounts to a crime or offence and cannot be charged or arrested.
ACRA supports trauma informed practice by recognizing that early life experiences can leave some children very vulnerable to pressures that can contribute to the emergence of harmful behaviour in childhood. The Act is designed to protect children from the harmful effects of early criminalization, while ensuring that incidents of harmful behaviour by children under 12 can continue to be effectively investigated and responded to appropriately.
The changes are based on the principles of GIRFEC, designed to ensure collaborative working and a holistic approach to understanding and responding to the needs of children.