ACT Government must #RaisetheAge to 14 without carve outs or exceptions

3 November 2022

The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) has today cautiously welcomed a commitment to increase to the age of criminal responsibility to 12, and then to 14 within two years, through a staged response to allow for the implementation of service reforms.

However, ACTCOSS expressed significant concern at the Government’s decision to include carve outs or exceptions for 12 and 13 year old children who commit serious offences.

The ACT Government’s commitment to deliver this legislation next year was made in the Raising the criminal age of responsibility position paper published today.

ACTCOSS Head of Policy, Dr Gemma Killen said: “While we welcome the position paper, this long overdue reform must not be delayed any further. The ACT Government must swiftly commit the necessary investment required for appropriate services to deliver the increase in the age of criminal responsibility to 14 within the promised two year time period.

“However, we are deeply concerned that the position paper indicates that the legislation will include exceptions and carve outs that will allow 12 and 13 year old children to be charged if they commit certain offences.

“Medical and scientific consensus is that people under the age of 14 do not have the developmental capacity to be held criminally responsible and that detention increases their odds of reoffending. If we agree that children cannot be held responsible for minor offences, we must agree that they are not criminally responsible for more serious offences.

“This decision goes against calls from the United Nations, medical and legal experts, the community sector and Aboriginal community-controlled organisations who have called for the for the minimum age of criminal responsibility to be at least 14 with no exceptions,” said Dr Killen.

Dr Killen said that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 10-13 are almost 20 times more likely to be in detention than non-Indigenous children in the ACT. Children under the age of 14 are particularly vulnerable to the harm arising from early contact with the justice system, which can result in high rates of disadvantage through life, including continued and sustained contact with the justice system.

“ACTCOSS will continue to campaign on this issue until we have raised the age to at least 14 with no exceptions. There is still time for the ACT Government to do the right thing and ensure that all young people are met with care and not incarceration. Keeping children out of prison is the best way to protect them, their families and the whole ACT community,” Dr Killen said.

Skip to content Skip to content