Victoria Legal Aid

Clear support for raising the age of criminal responsibility to 14

We welcome the release of a draft report calling for the age of criminal responsibility to be raised to 14.

Monday 12 December 2022 6:27am

We welcome the release of a draft reportExternal Link which recommends lifting the age of criminal responsibility in Australia to 14, and we urge governments to urgently implement its recommendations.

The report, informed by over 90 submissions, was prepared for the Standing Council of Attorneys-GeneralExternal Link in 2020.

The Council agreed to release the draft at its meeting on Friday 9 December 2022.

‘We all want to be part of communities where children are supported to grow and develop positive behaviours,’ said Dan Nicholson, Victoria Legal Aid Executive Director, Criminal Law.

‘This report is another demonstration of the strong consensus from health, social services and legal organisations that children under 14 do not have the maturity to be held criminally responsible for their actions,’ said Dan.

‘The younger a child is at their first sentence, the more likely they are to reoffend generally, reoffend more frequently, reoffend violently, continue offending and be sentenced to an adult sentence of imprisonment.’

‘Most children we see in the criminal justice system have experienced trauma or mental health issues, and the system overcriminalises First Nations children, and those from culturally and linguistically diverse communities.'

The report recommends that the Commonwealth and state and territory jurisdictions should raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 14, after strengthening culturally appropriate and trauma informed prevention, diversion and support services.

‘Providing children with early intervention and support helps to put them on a healthier path while they are still developing,' said Dan.

'Children need support through a health and welfare-based response to their actions, not early involvement in the criminal justice system.’

We note that Attorneys agreed in 2021 to work towards raising the age of criminal responsibility to 12. The evidence is clear from this report that all governments should be working towards raising the age to 14.

More information

Read the National Legal Aid submissionExternal Link to the Standing Council of Attorneys-General working group review.

Reviewed 12 December 2022