In support of raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility

Monday 21 August, 2023

Tasmanian Aboriginal Legal Service (TALS) and Legal Aid Tasmania (TLA) are opposed to the motion by Councillor Steve Kons, that if passed would see the Burnie City Council advocating against the raising of the minimum age for criminal responsibility from 10 to 14.

The age of criminal responsibility is the age in which a child is considered by law to have the capacity to understand that their actions were wrong, and therefore face criminal charges.

Currently in Tasmania, the age is 10, which means police have the power to arrest, search and imprison children who are only 10 – which is typically a child in year 3 or 4 in primary school.

Australia has repeatedly been criticised by the United Nations, for failing to reform the current minimum age which is below the global average of 14.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in the criminal justice system and make up the vast majority of children in detention.

Hannah Phillips, Acting State Manager TALS and Kristen Wylie, Director TLA say:

“We urge Councillor Kons to be part of the solution and not further aggravate the problem. The Burnie City Council should be looking at investing in programs and developments to support young people, their families, and communities.”

“Having children trapped in the criminal justice system is not going to lead to better outcomes for young people and better outcomes for the community.”

“Young people often act out because their basic needs are not being met. The focus must be on what supports can be wrapped around a young person to reduce the risk, not locking them up so that they are off the street for a brief period in a traumatic environment which ultimately makes them worse.”

“If you increase funding for police, more young people will be arrested. More young people will go to Ashley and more young people will go to Risdon. You cannot pump funding into one side of the system and think it will stop crime. Crime will stop when there is genuine commitment to early intervention, prevention, rehabilitation and therapeutic responses to offending.”

In addition, both say: “There is a complete absence of programs addressing risk and offending behaviour. There are no programs for youth to be diverted to. This is a real issue.”

“We also advocate for more mental health facilities on the NW Coast as well as establishing facilities to support young people with substance abuse issues.”

Information/interview: Keryn Nylander, for M&M Communications Tel. 0418 996 536

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