Politics

People Are Furious After National Campaign Fails To Raise Age Of Criminal Responsibility

"If you're a politician who has given up on finding a better solution than prison for a 10 year old kid, then do us all a favour and resign."

Ten-year-olds will continue to be sent to jail in Australia after the Council of Attorneys-General ignored a national campaign fighting to raise the age of criminal responsibility.

The campaign had lobbied the council to raise the age from 10 to 14, arguing that children that young should be supported with mental health care, mentoring and education — instead of jail. But at their biannual meeting yesterday the council said more work needed to be done to figure out alternatives to prison for young offenders.

Now, people are furious that apparently our top legal minds can’t see any options other than chucking kids behind bars.

A working group was put together more than a year and a half ago to look into this, and eight months ago they announced they would report back with recommendations this year.

Now any decision has been deferred until next year to give the working group more time. Meanwhile, last financial year almost 600 Australian children aged 10 to 13 were in detention. But hey, what’s the rush?

“If there is a move to raise the age of criminal responsibility you have to identify what is the alternative for children who would otherwise be subject to the criminal justice process,” NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman said.

“And that is where further work needs to be done. What are the therapeutic interventions the behaviour interventions, the social support, the educational interventions that offending children need if they are not going to be dealt with by the criminal justice system?”

A nationwide campaign pushing for the age to be lifted had encouraged people to share images of themselves at the age of 10 to try and bring a bit of humanity back into the discussion.

People are understandably exhausted and furious the council has avoided making any changes. In a media release, the Koori Youth Council — who put out a report two years ago which recommended raising the age (and included solutions to support Indigenous kids) — called the news disheartening.

“The alternatives to imprisonment have been identified, along with solutions and research that supports the need to raise the age. Further delays will continue to have detrimental effects on children and young people in the youth justice system,” their statement said.

The Koori Youth Council is part of the collective Raise The Age Campaign, which is made up of experts in the legal, medical and social justice fields.