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Young People in the Criminal Justice System

In our response to the Scottish Government’s consultation on the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility, Victim Support Scotland have emphasised the importance of victims having access to support and an understanding of the system that is in place for dealing with those whose actions have caused harm.

We advocate that children should be given chances and support and victims should be supported, recognised, acknowledged and informed.

Girl being supportedThe consultation follows on from the report published in March on the policy implications of increasing the minimum age of criminal responsibility for young people in Scotland from its present position of 8yrs.  The report highlighted the impact of such a move on young people, victims and communities and on justice and welfare processes and systems.

Victim Support Scotland was a part of the Advisory Group for the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility (MACR) which developed the report.

It is well researched that a substantial proportion of offences committed by young people are perpetrated against another young person and vice versa. VSS believes young people should be fully supported to realise the consequences of actions and behaviours and is fully supportive of the welfare approach in Scotland through our unique children’s hearings system.

Criminalising young people throughout their lives is not the answer, but recognition, acknowledgement and support for victims and young people is.  Support for young victims needs to be in place regardless of the age of the person who has caused the harm. There is a need for up-to-date research on the needs of young victims, so we can identify the gaps in the support that currently exist.

In order for victims to have confidence in the youth justice system, and to provide them with closure and reassurance, information should be provided on the system in place to deal with youth offending.

We look forward to participating in the next steps of the debate moving forward and witnessing how the balance can be made to ensure victims of crime get the support they need whether they be an adult or a young person alongside support for a young person who has harmed them.

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