With the change of Australia’s leadership, I am interested to see the next approach in policy to crime and punishment, specifically relating to juvenile crime. One question raised on the campaign trail was whether the age of criminal responsibility should be raised from the current Australia (federal and all states) age of 10.
Australia has one of the lowest ages of criminal responsibility in the world – the global average is 14 years old and accredited organisations, including the United Nations Committee, are urging countries to reconsider the criminal age.
The reasons for reforming the current minimum age of criminal responsibility are clear:
- Social science affirms the dangers of early contact. Locking kids up does not reduce the likelihood to offend. Instead, it steers them on a path towards reoffending – 94% of children imprisoned between the ages of 10 to 12 receive another prison sentence before they reach adulthood. Children who are forced into contact with the criminal justice system at a young age are also less likely to complete their education and find employment.
- Medical science is not consistent with the current laws on childhood capacity. Contemporary research shows that children’s brains are still developing and they do not fully understand the consequences and severity of their actions. Suffering great emotional harm at such a formative age can inflict lasting damage upon the wellbeing of a child.
There is much to debate between incarceration and alternatives to incarceration, but when it comes specifically to children, listening to medical and social sciences is imperative to ensure that children at 10 years old are not sent down a judicial path that they may never return from.