Protecting Children: Review of section 12 of the Children and Young Persons (Scotland) Act 1937 and section 42 of the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009

Closed 14 Nov 2018

Opened 22 Aug 2018

Feedback updated 14 Oct 2019

We asked

We asked for views on proposals to modernise the criminal offence of child cruelty, set out in section 12 of the Children and Young Persons (Scotland) Act 1937, including whether emotional and psychological harm should be included within the scope of the offence.


We also asked for views on whether the definition of a ‘position of trust’ in section 42-45 of the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009 should be extended to cover other positions in which a person is in a position of power, responsibility or influence over a child.

You said

We received 220 responses to the consultation from a mixture of individuals, public sector and third sector organisations.


The majority of respondents were largely supportive of our proposals to modernise section 12, with 93% agreeing that the offence would benefit from reform and 95% agreeing children should have clear legislative protection from emotional harm. However, respondents also raised a number of potential issues with the proposals, suggesting further engagement with stakeholders on the complexities highlighted in responses would be of value.


On the abuse of trust offence, a large number of respondents came back with suggestions for how the offence could be strengthened to cover all adults who may have particular power, influence or control over a child.

We did

We have published the responses that gave permission and an analysis of the consultation responses.


We are carefully considering responses to inform next steps in this complex and sensitive area of the law. We plan to undertake further engagement with the third sector and other key stakeholders as we develop and refine the proposals.

Published responses

View submitted responses where consent has been given to publish the response.


This consultation seeks views on potential changes to two criminal offences related to the protection of children, namely:

  • the offence of child neglect currently legislated for in section 12 of the Children and Young Persons (Scotland) Act 1937; and
  • the offence of sexual abuse of trust set out in section 42 of the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009.

Why your views matter

Consultation is an essential part of the policy making process. We will consider the views expressed in response to this consultation along with other available evidence to help inform the Scottish Government's decisions.

Download the consultation paper.

What happens next

Consultation responses will be considered carefully and we will take account of views expressed when considering how to progress any possible amendments to the criminal offence of cruelty to children and sexual abuse of trust offence.


  • Children and Families
  • Law and Order