April 26, 2023 |
The Andrews’ Government has announced that the age of criminal responsibility in Victoria will be raised from 10 to 12 years old by late 2024, with no exceptions, and made a commitment to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14 years old by 2027, with exceptions for certain serious crimes. The Federation of Community Legal Centres urges the Victorian Government to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14 with no exceptions immediately.
Today, the Andrews’ Government announced that the age of criminal responsibility in Victoria would be raised from 10 to 12 years old by late 2024, with no exceptions; and made a commitment to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14 years old by 2027, with exceptions for certain serious crimes.
We are pleased to see Victoria moving towards a more humane justice system. However, there is an opportunity for the reforms to go further sooner, to keep children, young people and communities safe, immediately.
The minimum age of criminal responsibility should be 14, with no exceptions, in line with international human rights standards and medical evidence.
Research tells us that children below the age of 14 have not yet reached the stage of brain development where they can be held criminally responsible. What’s more, engagement with the criminal legal system, including incarceration at a young age, has a damaging impact on children's wellbeing and growth, with long-term implications, such as potential disability, suicide risk and increased risk of longer-term imprisonment as an adult.
Child incarceration disproportionately affects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, perpetuating cycles of discrimination and reinforcing cultural alienation and separation from Country and Culture.
Currently, nearly all incarcerated children in Australia are 12 years old or above, further illustrating the shortfall of today’s announcement.
Children involved with the criminal legal system need therapeutic, child-centric and culturally-appropriate responses. Criminalisation and incarceration for any child under the age of 14 is both damaging for children and ineffective at preventing crime.
The Andrews’ Government clearly understands the medical evidence and international standards through its statement that the age of criminal responsibility will be raised to 14 within four years. We therefore urge the Government to accelerate efforts to put in place a system that excludes all children under 14 from engaging with the criminal legal system. Promises of future commitments require legislation to guarantee their implementation.
Louisa Gibbs, CEO of the Federation of Community Legal Centres said: “When we criminalise children under the age of 14, we are failing them. What we are doing is sentencing offending children to a lifetime of crime, violence and poverty.
“There is a great opportunity here, with an announcement to increase the age of criminal responsibility, to redirect government policies and funding towards other models of intervention for young people, now. This includes early intervention and prevention, to keep kids out of the criminal legal system and in their communities, where they can flourish as valued and engaged members of society.
“Today’s announcement goes to show that the Victorian Government has the power and commitment to raise the age of criminal responsibility, and we continue to urge the government to raise it to 14 as soon as possible, with no exceptions, in line with international human rights standards and medical evidence.
“Victorian Community Legal Centres will continue to advocate for appropriate and constructive change that keeps children and the wider community safe.”