Jesuit Social Services says the ACT has paved the way for other jurisdictions to provide age-appropriate responses to children in trouble, with the Legislative Assembly voting yesterday to raise the age of legal responsibility from 10 to 14.
It is the first state or territory to commit to changing its laws to ensure primary school-aged children are not incarcerated, after the Council of Attorneys-General decided last month to defer recommendations about the issue.
Jesuit Social Services chief executive Julie Edwards said the decision will improve outcomes for children, their families and the broader community.
“By locking up children as young as 10, Australian states and territories have long been out of touch with international standards and acted against recommendations by the United Nations,” Ms Edwards said.
“This is despite a wealth of evidence from Australia and abroad showing that children under 14 years do not possess the neurological maturity to form criminal intent.
“We also know that many children who have contact with the justice system are victims of trauma, abuse and mental illness. Instead of incarcerating them, we need to be supporting them in the community, connecting them with family and school, and helping them get their lives back on track.”
Ms Edwards said the ACT’s decision must be the impetus for other states and territories to take similar action.
“Primary school-aged children belong in the classroom, not in prison. Other states and territories must look at the leadership shown by the ACT today and commit to helping, not harming, vulnerable children,” she said.
ACT shows the country it is time to raise the age (Jesuit Social Services)