Twelve is too young to be treated as a criminal

Published

November 22, 2021

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Uniting Vic.Tas has joined Raise the Age Alliance members to urge governments across the country to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 14 years.

Attorneys-General around Australia, including in Victoria and Tasmania, have recently agreed to work together to increase the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 12.

Uniting Vic.Tas CEO Bronwyn Pike welcomed the issue being back on the agenda, but said 12 was too young to be treated as a criminal with clear evidence that 14 is the youngest age a child should be subjected to the criminal legal system.

Many 12-year-olds are still in primary school. At 13, they are starting their first year of high school. These formative years set a child’s trajectory for the rest of their lives.

In Victoria, even if the age of criminal responsibility is raised to 12, there is not a single child under 14 who will be released. This doesn’t go far enough.

Australia’s approach on this issue has been roundly slammed by the United Nations, most recently at the United Nations Human Rights Council.

For years, First Nations organisations, health, legal and human rights experts have been pleading for governments to raise the age of criminal responsibility to at least 14.

The current laws in Victoria and Tasmania treat children as criminals. We think this is unfair and that these children should not be condemned in this way.

We’re now calling on the Victorian and Tasmanian governments to follow the ACT and publicly commit to 14 as the age of criminal responsibility.

 

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