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Thursday, May 13, 2021

ACT takes first step to raise criminal age

The ACT has taken the first step towards raising the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14 years, with a motion from the Greens committing the Government to consider the legislation after the October election.

The ACT would be the first jurisdiction in Australia to raise the age to 14, and ACT Greens Leader Shane Rattenbury said “it’s time we got on with this”.

“This motion today will set in train the work for the ACT Assembly, so that after the election preparations are being made and the 10th Assembly can quickly get down to the business of making this reform here in the Territory.”

The move has been welcomed by a number of community organisations, including the Gugan Gulwan Youth Aboriginal Corporation. Executive director Kim Davison said it is the responsibility of whichever party is in Government after the election to take urgent action.

“We call on the Labor and Liberal parties to also commit to raising the age to at least 14 years old and keeping very young children out of prison cells.”

CEO of the Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT Karly Warner also called for a commitment from ACT Labor and the Canberra Liberals.

“By raising the age we’ll stop forcing kids into the quicksand of the criminal legal system and instead ensure kids thrive in community and culture,” she said.

The national Council of Attorneys-General in July postponed making an Australia-wide decision on the issue, and ACT Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay said at the time the ACT would continue to push for national consistency.

The ACT Law Society and the ACT Council of Social Services (ACTCOSS) have also backed the motion.

The ACT Youth Coalition CEO Justin Barker said the community sector would need further investment to be adequately resourced in order to support young people. 

“These services don’t just prevent people from entering the justice system … they improve outcomes for the community more broadly,” he said.

Mr Rattenbury said consequences should still be in place for children who commit a crime, but should focus on working with mentors, support organisations and dealing with drug and alcohol issues and trauma to provide children with a different pathway.

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