The St Vincent de Paul Society has welcomed the ACT Government’s decision to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 12 years, with a subsequent rise to 14 years from July 2025.
Explaining that this decision was in broad conformity with the society’s “Fairer Australia” policy, national president Mark Gaetani said, “We firmly believe that all Australian children should be supported to make good life choices. The entry of children into the youth justice system has an especially disproportionate impact on First Nations children, with far too many locked away in juvenile detention facilities, and even adult prisons.”
“The society supports the Justice Reform Initiative, whose many backers include Sir William Deane and Dame Quentin Bryce, and believes that increasing penalties and building more detention facilities are not the solution,” Mr Gaetani said.
“Evidence shows children remain in cycles of disadvantage and imprisonment due to a lack of early critical support services including health, disability, rehabilitation and family supports. Holding children in prison begins a cycle of criminalisation – the earlier a child’s first contact with the justice system, the more likely they are to go on to reoffend.”
Mr Gaetani said that for some years the society had been urging the raising of the age of criminal responsibility in all Australian jurisdictions and a standardising of laws relating to how young people can be treated.
“The ACT’s decision should be seen as both compassionate and courageous. Furthermore, it is pragmatic, as jailing children is damaging to the individuals as well as harmful and costly to the broader society,” Mr Gaetani said.
Raised age of criminal responsibility is welcome (St Vincent de Paul Society)