New research from the Australia Institute and Change the Record shows that most Australians agree children as young as 10 years old do not belong in prison, and that Australia’s age of criminal responsibility should be increased from 10 years of age to the global median of 14 years of age, or higher.
The Council of Attorneys-General (CAG) is set to meet for what may be the final time on Monday 27 July to consider the outcome of a national review to raise Australia’s age of criminal responsibility from 10 years old to bring it in line with the global median of 14 years of age, or higher. The CAG consists of the Federal, State and Territories Attorneys-General and the New Zealand Minister for Justice.
- Across Australia, the age of criminal responsibility – the age at which a child can be locked up in prison – is 10 years old, which is out of step with the global median of 14 years old.
- Almost three in every four Australians (73%) think the age of criminal responsibility is greater than 10 years.
- More than one in two Australians (51%) think the age is 14 years or greater.
- Only a very small minority of Australians (7%) correctly identify 10 years old as the age of criminal responsibility.
- More than one in two Australians (51%) support raising the age of criminal responsibility to 14 years, which is twice as many as those who oppose raising the age to 14 years (26% oppose).
“Our research shows most Australians are unaware that in Australia today, children as young as 10 years old can be sent to prison due to Australia’s low age of criminal responsibility,” said Bill Browne, researcher at the Australia Institute.
“10 year old kids belong in primary school, not prison. In fact, more than one in two Australians support raising Australia’s criminal age of responsibility to 14 years of age.
“Australia’s age of criminal responsibility being set at 10 years old is out of step with the rest of the world, where 14 years is the median age of criminal responsibility. This is backed by the Australian Medical Association, Law Council of Australia and Royal College of Australian Physicians, among others, who agree the age of criminal responsibility should be raised to 14 years.
“With Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children 17 times as likely to be detained as their non-Indigenous peers, justice requires that as a nation, Australian policymakers needs to rethink how to tackle youth offending,” Mr Browne said.
“We can all agree that children need care, love and support as they are growing up, not handcuffs and prisons. Locking up children as young as ten years old can cause serious harm to a child’s health and development and makes it more likely that they will get stuck in the quicksand of the criminal justice system,” said Sophie Trevitt, Executive Officer at Change the Record.
“The Australia Institute’s research shows that not only do most Australians have no idea that such young children can be locked up in youth prisons, but that the majority of Australians agree with the medical science we need to change the laws to keep these kids out of prisons,” Ms Trevitt said.
The discussion paper, written by Bill Browne, researcher at the Australia Institute, and Sophie Trevitt, Executive Officer at Change the Record is available to download here.