Youthlaw is part of a large coalition of organisations here in Victoria and nationally – all committed to and calling for the age of criminal responsibility to be raised to at least 14 years of age.
Over the weekend you would have seen reports that Australia’s Attorneys-General have agreed to work on a proposal to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 12 years old.
This announcement confirms that raising the age of criminal responsibility is an important national issue which has considerable support.
However this announcement to plan a proposal to raise the age to 12 years doesn’t take the crucial step of committing to raise the age.
Attorney Generals across the nation promised a plan to develop a proposal to raise the age over 3 years ago, but have as yet delivered nothing. All the while, children across Australia continue to be arrested and locked away.
Disappointingly this announcement focuses only on considering raising the age of criminal responsibility to 12 years, not to at least 14 years. This is contrary to all the best legal and health advice, including from the Australian Medical Association, that says a 14 years old is the absolute youngest age a child should ever be subjected to the criminal legal system.
When a child aged under 14 engages in offending behaviour it should be a call to urgent action. The question should be what does this child and family need in the way of support.
At this stage only the ACT has taken any action in line with this expert advice and committed to raise the age to 14 years.
If governments across Australia only raise the minimum age to 12 years, then 456 out of the 499 children under 14 years in prison last year would remain locked away behind bars and being harmed.
So we continue to call on and support the Victorian Government to take the urgent further step to commit to raise the age to at least 14 years. Last year there were no children under 12 years in youth detention in Victoria. Now we must build on this and legislate to keep all children under 14 years ( 29 children last year) out of prison.
Advocacy and Human Rights Officer / email@example.com