Scotland told to scrap consensual stop search and raise age of criminal responsibility by United Nations

Written by Alan Robertson on 24 July 2015 in News

UN Human Rights Committee issues series of recommendations

Scotland should scrap consensual stop and search by police, raise the age of criminal responsibility, and ban parents from smacking their children at home, a United Nations report has suggested. 

The recommendations were issued by the UN Human Rights Committee, a body of 18 international experts who monitor the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

It comes after the Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC) raised a number of concerns as part of the committee’s first review of Britain since 2008.


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The UN report has called for non-statutory stop and search powers to be repealed and for authorities to “undertake comprehensive data gathering about the application of stop and search power and improve the transparency of the process”.

The committee added that the age of criminal responsibility, which is eight years of age in Scotland, should be raised “in accordance with international standards”.

Last month the Scottish Liberal Democrats put forward amendments to the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill which, if implemented, would see the minimum age rise from eight to 12.

Corporal punishment, including in the home, should come to an end, if appropriate “through legislative measures” the committee argued.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said they did "not support criminalising parents for lightly smacking their child", adding that the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003 "clearly outlines what is unacceptable punishment".

Concerns were also raised by the UN committee about the “high number of suicides” in Scotland as well as cuts to legal aid.

SHRC chair, Professor Alan Miller, said: “Scotland generally performs well when it comes to human rights.

“But gaps still exist when it comes to a series of important issues that affect people in everyday life. These include unlawful police stop and search, high suicide rates, the continued use of corporal punishment in the home and problems securing access to justice. 
 
“The Commission is therefore extremely pleased that the UN Human Rights Committee has taken on board our evidence on these and other issues.

“Its robust recommendations should now be addressed by the Scottish and UK Governments. The Scottish Parliament should also consider the role it can play on those issues where it has a remit to act.”

An independent review is to deliver recommendations on the future use of consensual stop and search by Police Scotland next month after the tactic attracted significant controversy.

John Finnie, Independent MSP and Scottish Green MSP candidate for next year’s Holyrood election, said: “Whilst in not wishing to pre-empt the outcome of that review, we believe that the only acceptable way forward is to ensure all stop and search would require to be on done a statutory footing.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Stop and search can be a valuable tool in combating crime and has led to the seizures of dangerous weapons, drugs and stolen goods.

“However, clearly it is important to get the balance right between protecting the public and the rights of the individual.

“The new independent Advisory Group, chaired by John Scott QC, is considering the longer-term policy around the use of consensual stop and search and will make their recommendations by August 2015.”

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