The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) today welcomed the release of the Raising the Age discussion paper by the ACT Government.
The ACT Government is calling for expert and community input into legislative reform to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 years to 14 years of age.
ACTCOSS CEO Dr Emma Campbell said: “All the evidence tells us that prison is no place for children.
“We commend the ACT Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury MLA and the ACT Government for committing to raising the age of criminal responsibility from 10 years of age to 14 in the current ACT Parliamentary and Governing Agreement.
“Medical and scientific consensus is that young children do not have the developmental capacity to be held criminally responsible and that detention increases their odds of reoffending.
“Kids belong in school and with their families and communities, not in prison cells.
“If diverted from the youth justice system, the needs of children under 14 can be addressed by appropriate services in youth homelessness, child protection and mental health.
“Providing early and alternative supports to children and their families will also lead to better outcomes for the individual, their family and the wider community than engagement with the criminal justice system,” Dr Campbell said.
Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children are grossly overrepresented in the justice system. Based on rates of detention per capita, Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children are locked up at 18 times the rate of non-Indigenous children.
Dr Campbell continued: “If we are truly committed to Closing the Gap, we must support the ACT Government’s leadership on this crucial issue.
“ACTCOSS is proud to be based in the only jurisdiction in Australia that has recognised that children simply do not belong in prison. We applaud the work done by the ACT Government and Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury to progress this critical reform.
“We urge community sector organisations and community members to make a submission in response to the paper as to how we can best support vulnerable children in Canberra to be diverted from the criminal justice system and to support raising the age of criminal responsibility to 14,” Dr Campbell said.
The discussion paper is available here with comments open until Thursday 5 August 2021.
ACTCOSS advocates for social justice in the ACT and represents not-for-profit community organisations.
For more information or comment, please contact
Dr Emma Campbell, CEO, ACTCOSS, on 0424 910 617 or 02 6202 7200.