Project status: In progress
How you had YourSay
The ACT Government is committed to raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility in the ACT and intends to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 14, no more than two years after first raising it to 12.
The ACT Government introduced a bill into the Legislative Assembly in May 2023 to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility – making the ACT the first Australian jurisdiction to legislate an increase to 14 years.
The Justice (Age of Criminal responsibility) Legislation Amendment Bill 2023 aims to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility in the ACT from 10 to 14 years, to ensure that children under the age of 14 years, except for those aged 12 and 13 years who commit certain exceptionally serious and intentionally violent offences, cannot be held criminally responsible.
In November 2022, the ACT Government released a Position Paper, outlining how this reform will be implemented, key policy decisions already taken and what elements require further consultation.
The Position Paper reflects the feedback that we heard through earlier consultations, including submissions from the community on a Discussion Paper released in August 2021, as summarised in this Listening Report.
In addition, the ACT Government commissioned an independent review led by Emeritus Professor Morag McArthur in 2021. The review's Final Report identified service system changes to support children and young people when the minimum age is raised.
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Across Australia, the minimum age of criminal responsibility is currently 10 years. This means that children as young as 10 can be charged, convicted and incarcerated for a criminal offence.
Exposing children and young people to the criminal justice system can have a significant impact on their neurological and social development and can result in life-long interactions with the justice system.
The existence of a minimum age in justice systems recognises an age below which children are not able to form criminal intent in undertaking harmful behaviours, and therefore a criminal justice response is not appropriate.
We should provide therapeutic and restorative care to children and young people who are engaging in harmful behaviour.
Therapeutic and restorative care will improve outcomes for children and young people and increase community safety by diverting young people now and reducing later engagement in offending behaviour.
Following the 2020 election, the ACT Government committed to raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility as agreed Legislative Reform in the Parliamentary and Governing Agreement for the 10th Legislative Assembly.
In addition, the Attorneys General from all jurisdictions in Australia have been considering whether this should be raised.
The Northern Territory has recently introduced legislation to raise the age to 12 and a two-year review to ensure it has the necessary support structures in place to consider raising the age to 14.
Tasmania has announced that it will raise the minimum age of detention to 14, with exceptions for young people who commit the most serious offences.
The ACT Government is legislating to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 14, no more than two years after first raising it to 12.
There will be no exceptions for children under 12 years, they will be completely removed from the criminal justice system.
Exceptions enabling young people aged 12 or 13 to be charged if alleged to have committed the most serious of offences will be legislated as an option.
The ACT Government is continuing to determine the reform of the service system required to support raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility. This includes:
- Improving the experiences and outcomes for children aged under 14 years who are engaging in harmful behaviour that brings them to the attention of the justice system.
- Leveraging this as an opportunity to improve the service system for a broader cohort of children and young people who face risk and engagement with youth justice.
- Increasing community safety by intervening early and diverting children and young people onto a healthier pathway and away from later engagement in offending behaviour.