Minimum age of criminal responsibility in the ACTDownload PDF
This submission addresses the question of whether the age of criminal responsibility (MACR) should be increased and submits that the age should be raised from 10 years old to a minimum of 14 years old in the Australian Capital Territory.
Summary of recommendations
The Australian Childhood Foundation (ACF) recommends that the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) in the Australian Capital Territory be reformed in line with the following principles:
1. The minimum age of criminal responsibility be raised to at least 14 years.
2. The increased minimum age of criminal responsibility should be universal, with no exemptions due to extenuating circumstances, even for serious offences.
3. Should the minimum age of criminal responsibility be raised to age 14, the principle of doli incapax ceases to be relevant and should be abolished. However, young people aged 15–17 must still be provided safeguards in their contact with the justice system to ensure it is responsive and supportive of their individual circumstances and that treatment and proceedings are appropriate to their individual needs.
4. That the minimum age of detention be set at 16 years to decrease the likelihood of reoffending and provide greater opportunities for young people aged 10 to 15 years to achieve positive life-long outcomes with a view of detention as a matter of last resort for any young person under the age of 18.
5. Children and young people in the youth justice system have high rates of cognitive impairment, mental illness, and trauma. A therapeutic and supportive response to these children and their families outside of the youth justice system is urgently needed to provide protection not further harm for those in need.
6. That the Australian Capital Territory further develop and implement a Justice Reinvestment Strategy in partnership with community services, with the aim to shift the emphasis of youth justice from punishment to rehabilitation.
7. That funds previously allocated for the criminalisation and detention of children under 14 be re-allocated to prevention, early intervention, and diversionary responses linked to culturally safe and trauma-responsive services for this age-range.
8. That universal services in areas such as education, health, employment, and other community services be integrated into the youth justice system as key drivers of early intervention.
9. Ensure that Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCOs) are prioritised and funded to deliver the planning, design and implementation of prevention, early intervention and diversionary responses for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people.