AMA calls for age of criminal responsibility to be raised

28 Mar 2019

AMA President Dr Tony Bartone has outlined the AMA’s call to raise the age of criminal responsibility, stating that it will prevent the unnecessary criminalisation of vulnerable children. The AMA is calling for the age of criminal responsibility to be raised from 10 to 14.

“Australia has one of the lowest ages of criminal responsibility in the world,” Dr Bartone said.

“The criminalisation of children in Australia is a nationwide problem that disproportionately impacts Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

“Most children in prison come from backgrounds that are disadvantaged. These children often experience violence, abuse, disability, homelessness, and drug or alcohol misuse.

“Criminalising the behaviour of young and vulnerable children creates a vicious cycle of disadvantage. and forces children to become entrenched in the criminal justice system.”

The age of criminal responsibility is the age at which a child is considered capable of being dealt with by the criminal justice system. Around 600 children below the age of 14 are locked away in youth jails each year, with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children constituting 70 per cent of this cohort.

The new policy was passed at the AMA Federal Council meeting in Canberra earlier in March. The AMA is calling on the Commonwealth and State and Territory Governments to support developmentally and culturally appropriate health, education, and rehabilitative-based alternatives to the criminal justice system.

Read the media release here.