Law Council renews call to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility

Move follows recent pressure from a group of United Nations countries to enact change

Law Council renews call to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility

The Law Council of Australia has renewed its call for the government to lift the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 14 years, following pressure from a group of United Nations member states in a meeting earlier this week.

The Law Council has long advocated for the minimum age of criminal responsibility to be raised from 10 to 14 – a move that it said would bring the country in line with its international obligations, with the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child recommending 14 years as the minimum age in 2019.

And in the latest push to enact change, a group of 31 UN countries – including Canada, Norway, and Germany – urged Australia to raise the minimum age at the recently-held Universal Periodic Review meeting, which reviews the human rights records of UN members every five years.

“Last night’s call by 31 countries meeting at the United Nations Universal Periodic Review that Australia raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility is a stark reminder that Australia is falling behind the rest of the world in dealing with juvenile offenders,” said Jacoba Brasch, president of the Law Council. “It is unconscionable that in 2021 Australia… a child under 13 years cannot sign up for a Facebook account [and] cannot board a plane unsupervised if under 12 – but children as young as 10 can be found to be criminally responsible, charged with a crime, and kept in detention.”

According to Brasch, the Law Council is “not discounting that there are some legitimate concerns held amongst some parts of the community about community safety and juvenile crime.”

“However, evidence strongly suggests that having a low minimum age of criminal responsibility of 10 years old does not work,” said Brasch. “It does not make our communities safer, because it fails to prevent reoffending or to rehabilitate children. It does not make the children themselves safer. Instead, it is likely to entrench criminality and creates cycles of inter-generational disadvantage that heighten reoffending rates.”

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