The Greens have today announced plans to raise the age of criminal responsibility in NSW to 14 years of age with no one under the age of 16 eligible for a custodial sentence.
The current age of criminal responsibility in NSW is 10 years of age, with the NSW Government presently spending $713 940 per child per year of detention and almost $250 million on youth justice annually.
“Raising the age is in line with expert knowledge, evidence and community expectations. The international standard for the age of criminal responsibility is 14 and countries such as China, Russia, Germany, Spain and many others are working to this age,” Greens MP, lawyer and justice spokesperson Sue Higginson said.
“Medical and legal experts are in fierce agreement that children are developmentally incapable of criminal responsibility and the age should be raised. Primary school aged children should not be in prison.
“Other states and territories around the country are raising the age and it’s time that we join them. It’s disappointing that in spite of the evidence, we saw no progress on this issue in the last term of parliament.
“All evidence shows that children come in contact with the criminal justice system because of challenging life circumstances such as complex trauma, poverty, neglect and unaddressed mental or physical health problems.
“We cannot continue to punish and imprison children because of the disadvantage they have suffered.
“More than half of the youth prison population in NSW are First Nations youth. We need a culturally appropriate response to youth offending that focuses on restoration and rehabilitation, not one that continues to take First Nations children from their families and communities and send them down a path of compounding trauma they may never be able to return from.
“The Greens are committed to delivering a fairer justice system in the next term of parliament that doesn’t compound childhood trauma and instead helps keep children in their communities. The Greens are the only party that has made a commitment to do this.” Ms Higginson said.
Wiradjuri and Badu Island woman and Greens Upper House candidate Lynda-June Coe said: “Raising the Age is a critical step to reducing the incarceration rates of children and young people in this state. This policy is a floor, not a ceiling to creating pathways for healing and justice for young mob.
“No 10 year old child should be in prison. Raising the Age is one step we can take today to reduce the harms created by locking kids up.
“Poverty and trauma are not a crime. Children are bearing the brunt of our communities collapsing under a system inherently built on prisons. This needs to change. Raising the Age is one crucial step to reform this punitive practice,” Ms Coe said.
Greens candidate for Lismore Adam Guise said:
“There is an extreme lack of services for the people that need them throughout the Northern Rivers. Even prior to the floods, both Labor and the Liberal-Nationals failed to adequately invest in housing, education and health. Having safe places for young teenagers to connect and be creative is important to their wellbeing and happiness. Many facilities people turn to are still finding their own feet.
“The National Emergency Management Agency found that 1,337 residential properties in the Northern Rivers were badly damaged during the floods of February and March, with almost 5,000 homes suffering minor to moderate. That’s around some 6,300 homes.
“Rather than jailing kids, we should be investing in youth services and facilities that young people want,” Adam said.
Naarah Rodwell, CEO of CASPA Services, a leading child welfare and care service provider which operates across NSW, QLD and the NT said:
“At CASPA Services, we see the direct impact of having one of the lowest ages of criminal responsibility and the children we support who are presenting to the justice system mostly come from disadvantaged backgrounds with multiple and often many adverse childhood experiences – often exposed to environments of domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse and homelessness from very early ages.
“These children are vulnerable and should be supported to break out of their disadvantaged circumstances. Detention will only perpetuate the cycle as the evidence already shows. CASPA strongly support #raisetheage campaigning and welcomes the advocacy being provided,” Ms Rodwell said.
Included in the policy is the resourcing and development of a transition plan to release all children under 16 from prison and ensure young people impacted by the criminal system get the support they need to heal.
There are also plans to redesign the approach to youth detention centred on rehabilitation and reintegration and a statewide diversionary framework with targeted support for First Nations led justice reinvestment programs.