Policy Statement - Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility
17 December 2019
Prison should not be a rite of passage for any child. Yet, in Australia, children as young as 10 can be imprisoned. This is a national tragedy recognised by both the Australian Medical Association (AMA) and the Law Council of Australia (LCA).
That is why the AMA and LCA are calling on all levels of government – state, territory and federal – to increase the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 14.
This would bring Australia into line with international human rights standards and medical consensus on child brain development.
25 June 2022
The Law Council's paper dated 25 June 2022 is an addendum to the existing policy on raising the minimum age of criminal responsibly, which was published jointly with the Australian Medical Association in December 2019 and is available here.1 It must be read in conjunction with the existing policy and its resolutions, which are summarised as follows:
- The age of criminal responsibility in Australia should be increased to 14.
- Prison should not be seen as a rite of passage for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.
- Communities and society will not be safer or healthier if children are in prison.
- Early intervention, prevention and rehabilitation solutions should be prioritised.
- In Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, health and justice solutions should be community-led.
- Investment in critical support services for children and families must be increased.
- Children belong in their communities.
- Australia should abide by its international obligations, particularly regarding the rights of the child.
- The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child should always be a last resort for children and should only occur for the shortest appropriate period of time.
Under the Law Council’s policy, the minimum age of criminal responsibility would be raised from 10 years old to 14 years old without exception. This would mean that children aged 10, 11, 12 and 13 years old would no longer be charged with a criminal offence in Australia.
There have accordingly been calls from governments for guidance from stakeholders on what should replace the current criminal justice response to these children.
The purpose of this additional paper to the existing policy is to provide overarching model guidance on responses to children under the minimum age of criminal responsibility.
As children aged 10, 11, 12 and 13 years old would no longer be held criminally responsible for their actions, such responses must take place outside the criminal justice system.