The age of criminal responsibility must be raised to 14 years in accordance with the recommendations of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) has told the Council of Attorney Generals in a submission today.
“Countless organisations both locally and internationally have criticised the Australian Government’s failure to take action on this issue,” said Mr Andrew Christopoulos, National President, ALA.
Currently, the minimum age, 10 years, is the same for all Australian states and territories, however the worldwide median age of criminal responsibility is 14 years.
“The current low age of criminal responsibility in Australia is in breach of human rights standards and puts Australia out of step with much of the rest of the world,” said Mr Christopoulos. “Despite entreaties from so many experts over so many years, the regressive attitude of the Australian Government has meant that change has yet to be actioned.
“A simple change that will make a considerable difference to the long-term prospects of hundreds of young people. Ten-year-old children should be at school and in the playground, not in the criminal justice system.
“There is significant evidence showing that the younger children are when they first encounter the justice system, the more likely they are to reoffend and less likely they are to finish their education and find employment.
“It is often the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children who come to the attention of the justice system at such a young age. Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of these children are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander children.
“Raising the age of criminal responsibility is a key measure in reducing the incarceration of young people who should only even be detained as a last resort.”