One day after the Northern Territory Government gave an in principle promise to raise the age of criminal responsibility, the Australian Bureau of Statistics has released data showing that over 3000 children under the age of 14 years get hauled before the courts each year.
Ruth Barson, Director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre, said that the data paints a diabolical picture of punitive and out-of-date youth justice systems across Australia.
“Thousands of primary school aged children are getting trapped in the quicksand of the criminal justice system each year. Children belong in playgrounds and classrooms, not in the courts and definitely not in prisons,” said Ms Barson.
The data shows that close to 100 ten year olds, 290 eleven year olds, 775 twelve year olds and 1850 thirteen year olds are being hauled before the courts rather than being supported with their families, in their schools and in their community.
“100 children who should be in grade four and close to 300 children who should be in grade five, are being drawn in to a system that risks harming them for life. Every single state and territory can put an end to this injustice today by raising the age of criminal responsibility to 14 years,” said Ms Barson.
Australian states and territories currently set the age of criminal responsibility at 10 years. The median age of criminal responsibility around the world is 14 years, in keeping with human rights standards and medical science that shows that children younger than 14 are not developmentally mature enough to be criminally liable.
“How we treat children today determines what our tomorrow looks like. No child should be subjected to the cruelty of prisons,” said Ms Barson.
For interviews or further information please call:
Michelle Bennett, Director of Communications, Human Rights Law Centre, 0419 100 51