Calls to lift imprisonment age to 14

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Bimberi Youth Justice Centre

THE ACT Human Rights Commission is calling on the ACT government to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14 years. 

“Under ACT law, children as young as 10 years old can be charged, sentenced and imprisoned in Bimberi Youth Justice Centre,” says Human Rights Commission president Dr Helen Watchirs.

Human Rights commissioner Helen Watchirs.

“Since 2005, we have consistently advocated for the minimum age of criminal responsibility in the ACT to be raised.”

Dr Watchirs says today (December 10), which is International Human Rights Day, is a good time to advocate that Australia step into line with international standards and raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility. 

ACT Children and Young People commissioner Jodie-Griffiths-Cook says it has been nearly 20 years since the ACT raised the age to 10 years.

“We know so much more about children’s development now. It is time to make sure our laws reflect that,” she says. 

“Many children who come into contact with the youth justice system have experienced more trauma in their young lives than most of us could imagine. 

“Not having the services we need is not a good enough reason to cause further harm to children by keeping the law as it is and allowing children to be imprisoned.

“Evidence clearly shows that the earlier a child is detained, the more likely they are to reoffend. We should be looking for ways to help them instead of locking them up. 

“We also know that of the 600 children in youth detention across Australia, 70 per cent are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. Indigenous children are many times more likely to be incarcerated than non-indigenous children.”

A panel of experts will today discuss raising the age of criminal responsibility at a forum at the ACT Legislative Assembly. 

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