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8 September 2017, 07:09
The number of cases involving a child committing a sexual offence against another child aged 17 or under reported to prosecutors has risen by more than a third in four years.
The figures rose from 224 in 2011/12 to 300 in 2015/16, a 34% increase, according to the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) statistics.
Meanwhile, the number of people aged 17 or under accused of sexual offending has risen by 21% over the same period, from 350 to 422.
Prosecutors said too many of Scotland's children and young people are subjected to, or engage in, sexual behaviours that require a criminal justice response.
Solicitor General Alison Di Rollo QC is hosting an education summit in Glasgow on Friday with the aim of working to protect children and young people, prevent future sexual offending and inspire a cultural step change in Scottish society.
The summit will bring together more than 150 teachers, social workers, police officers, prosecutors, young people's representatives and professionals from third-sector agencies.
She said: "Too many children and young people are coming to the attention of the police and the prosecution service in relation to sexual offending.
"There is a growing body of evidence that indicates that the most significant factor in determining whether a child will commit criminal offences in the future is contact with the criminal justice system at a young age.
"I don't want to prosecute Scotland's young people nor do I want them to have to give evidence in court against their peers and I believe that one of the key ways that we can protect our children and young people is by educating them about the law.
"Last month the Scottish Government published details of Education Scotland's review of the way personal and social education is taught in our schools.
"I believe that the review is a fantastic opportunity to thoroughly inform children and young people about their rights and responsibilities in terms of the criminal law, and I have today offered the assistance and expertise of Scotland's sole prosecution service, which can provide a unique perspective and experience."
There has also been a 34% rise in the number of victims of sexual offending aged 17 and under, from 1,190 in 2011/12 to 1,600 in 2015/16.
The conference will explore a range of subjects including the legal landscape of sexual offending in Scotland, the response to children and young people who display harmful sexual behaviours and preventing online child abuse.
The conference aims to provide professionals with the tools they need to help prevent future sexual offending and protect Scotland's children and young people.
Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: "It is important that children and young people gain knowledge about the laws on sexual behaviour which is appropriate to their age and stage of education.
"The approach delivered through the Curriculum for Excellent supports this.
"I am very pleased that the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service has led on today's summit and we will continue to work with them over the coming months to ensure the examples of best practice we have heard today are brought together into a meaningful and useful way, and are considered as part of the review into personal and social education.
"I am committed to ensuring the Scottish Government plays a central role in helping to reduce the numbers of our children and young people that are brought before the courts on sexual offence charges."