ACT Government commits to increasing age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14

Dominic Giannini 24 August 2020 10
Barbed wire

A motion passed in the Assembly had committed the next Government to undertake policy work to increase the age of criminal responsibility. Photo: File.

The ACT Government has committed to undertake the policy work to enable the Territory to increase the age of criminal responsibility in the next term of government from 10 to 14.

Increasing the age of criminal responsibility would be an Australian first and would bring the ACT in line with the United Nations threshold.


READ MORE: “Indictment of our nation”: calls grow to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14


The move has been welcomed by advocates like the ACT Law Society, whose president, Chris Donohue, said it was “much-overdue reform”.

“We are cautiously optimistic about today’s decision,” he said. “We should be treating children like children, not criminals.

“However, there is a need for action on this reform to be taken more quickly. The law society, and our specialist legal committees, stand ready to assist the ACT Government with the next steps.”

Justice Minister Shane Rattenbury

Justice Minister Shane Rattenbury led the charge for increasing the age of criminal responsibility in the Territory. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

The motion was moved by Greens leader Shane Rattenbury who said it was imperative that the ACT led the nation in criminal justice reform.

“Where children are imprisoned, it sets the trajectory for the rest of their lives and increases the risk they will be involved in the adult criminal justice system as they mature,” he said.

“With the right supports in place, and a well-resourced youth sector, we can provide better alternatives to custody for children under 14.

“We can better support these children by providing them with the help they need to stay on the right path.”


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A 2011 human rights audit of the Bimberi Youth Justice Centre called for the age of criminal responsibility to be raised to 12.

However, ACT Human Rights Commissioner Helen Watchirs says more recent studies recommended an increase from 12 to 14 due to “evidence in relation to brain development for complex reasoning regarding consequences and impulse control, which is not developed until the age of 14 generally”.

“[In 2019] the UN changed the minimum age from 12 to 14, so that is now the international standard.”

Although there are legal measures in place to ensure that children who do not know what they are doing are protected, in practice, it is often hard to implement, ACT Human Rights Commission Young People Commissioner Jodie Griffiths-Cook said.

Across the country, there are around 600 children under the age of 14 in our prisons every year, and 10 of them are just 10-years-old, according to the previous President of the Law Council of Australia, Arthur Moses.

Mr Moses previously called the current age of criminal responsibility an “indictment on our nation”.


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10 Responses to ACT Government commits to increasing age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14
aussie2 aussie2 9:41 pm 27 Aug 20

Must be an election in the offing, trying to get more Greens elected. Had many, many years to resolve the problems and their hands are still dirty from lack of real action. They want to train incarcerated to become bakers and gardeners. No outside training of any kind for low risk offenders. Bet he doesn’t know how many are there, and why are our worst still in our jail clogging it up, when they should be in Goulburn. BIG FAIL Shane!!

noid noid 4:17 pm 26 Aug 20

No discipline in the schools and no consequences in the streets…….happy days!!

Acton Acton 3:39 pm 26 Aug 20

The undeclared motivation behind this move is to reduce the number of indigenous youth being incarcerated. What the ACT government is admitting is that it cannot stop indigenous youth offending and being convicted of crimes, so it will raise the age of criminal responsibility to reduce the number being convicted and incarcerated. By this warped Greens logic you may as well raise the age of criminal responsibility to 99 and then you won’t have anyone in jail. But you will have increasing crime.

chewy14 chewy14 7:54 am 26 Aug 20

This is great………….for the recruitment drives of criminal gangs who can now bring in 13 year olds to commit their crimes for them with impunity.

Brian Ashcroft Brian Ashcroft 9:14 pm 25 Aug 20

I have always been a Barr supporter, both the person and his politics-but this is, and will be proven to be, his worst decision ever. Try explaining to the grieving parent who has just lost a child-hit by a 14yo car thief-it will happen-it has happened-and it will continue to happen. Apart from saving money on the juvenile correctional budget, I cannot see an ounce of logic here. The fact is 14yo's take drugs, steal cars, assault people-and all this is common knowledge. Bad decision.

Spiral Spiral 12:56 pm 25 Aug 20

While this is in itself not a bad idea, it must be backed up with effective programs that rehabilitate underage offenders and prevent them from becoming repeat offenders who are unable to be stopped by the legal system.

So where is the second half of the article where these programs are detailed, not in terms such as “we can” or “we should” but rather in concrete “we will”.

Surely those programs should be set up, and functioning effectively before such offenders become immune to the law.

Joan Legge Joan Legge 11:39 am 25 Aug 20

Can we now charge the parents if they commit a crime? They should be supervised at that age 10 to 14 .Stop blaming everybody else for what your kids do ,

Michael Cameron Michael Cameron 11:30 am 25 Aug 20

Now watch the increase of house break-ins and car stealing by these untouchables!

54-11 54-11 10:49 am 25 Aug 20

I’m happy with this, PROVIDED that the kids’ parents or guardians are then charged with whatever crime the little mongrels have committed. If the child is not held responsible, then their parents should be.

    florestan florestan 6:35 pm 25 Aug 20

    Totally agree, and in that case, as the parents are presumably adults, there cannot be any case for suppressing their names.

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