HomeThe age of criminal responsibility will be scrutinised by attorneys-general after heavy...

The age of criminal responsibility will be scrutinised by attorneys-general after heavy crticism

There are concerns about cruelty to children in a new move linked to the age of criminal responsibility.

Australia’s Attorneys-General have agreed to develop a proposal to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 12 following overwhelming pressure from a network of lawyers, doctors and advocates.

The state legal officers voted in favour of preparing the proposal on Friday, NCA NewsWire has confirmed, with an official statement expected to be revealed by Tuesday morning.

But the move has infuriated the wide network of advocates, who blasted it as a “nothing announcement” and reiterated the need to lift the age of criminal responsibility to 14.

The Meeting of Attorneys-General (MAG) has faced heavy criticism for its reluctance to commit to lifting the age in line with world standard.

NCA NewsWire was told representatives from the ACT and Northern Territory refused to agree to the proposal, with those jurisdictions insisting the age should be lifted to 14.

Meanwhile, federal Attorney-General Michaelia Cash has again said it is a matter for the jurisdictions given most youth offending falls under state laws and state governments are unlikely to lift the age and expose themselves political to ‘soft on crime’ accusations.

An Aboriginal-led coalition of legal and health advocates, Change the Record, blasted the stalemate.

“Three years ago Attorneys-General committed to explore options to raise the age and they have done nothing since then,” the group’s co-chair Cheryl Axleby said.

“Last year almost 500 children under the age of 14 languished behind bars, disproportionately Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

“The United Nations, and over thirty other countries, have called on Australia to raise the age to at least 14 years old. This nothing announcement for a proposal to not even raise the age to the bare minimum is devastating for kids who are being harmed by the criminal legal system and their families.”

The Aboriginal Legal Service (ALS) echoed the frustration and accused the legal representatives of inaction in favour of political preservation.

“This is a figleaf announcement designed to take pressure off politicians and give the appearance of action, without the substance,” acting chief executive Nadine Miles said.

“They know most Australians support raising the age to 14, as do Aboriginal organisations and the experts across the medical, legal, human rights and community service sectors — by putting politics over evidence, the Attorneys-General are dodging their accountabilities to children and their constituents.”

Queensland Greens MP Michael Berkman fronted a parliamentary committee on Monday to provide a briefing to his bill which proposed raising the age of criminal responsibility to 14.

He told NCA NewsWire the pending proposal from MAG was a “disgrace”.

“This cowardly move to keep sending 12 and 13-year olds to prison is inconsistent with the medical science, keeps Australia behind the median global age, and is just an attempt to further delay the reforms we actually need,” Mr Berkman said.

“Raising the age to fourteen is not aspirational; it’s the absolute bare minimum recommended by the UN.”

A spokesman for Queensland Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman said she would comment on the proposal until the announcement was official.

But she has previously said the Palaszczuk Labor government had “no plans to raise the age of criminal responsibility in Queensland”.

The state government’s refusal to support a change is at odds with the party’s representatives in Canberra, expected to campaign on lifting the age of criminal responsibility.

“While we haven’t determined what the suitable age is, federal Labor believes that 10 is too young,” shadow spokeswoman for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney told NCA NewsWire last month.

“The Commonwealth had the opportunity to do this 12 months ago and they should show leadership and work constructively with states and territories.”


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