Criminal responsibility age laws ‘cruel and outdated’
Vinnies Queensland have thrown our support behind proposals to lift the age of criminal responsibility to 14, as existing state laws allowing the imprisonment of children as young as 10 are cruel and outdated.
Greens MP Michael Berkman will move a bill in State Parliament on Wednesday, proposing lifting the age Queenslanders can receive prison time and a criminal conviction from 10 to 14.
Vinnies Queensland CEO Kevin Mercer said he hoped this bill would be backed by the State Government.
“Queensland, and Australia as a whole, continue to fall far behind world standards on this issue,” Mr Mercer said.
“We consider ourselves a progressive and caring country, yet we continue to imprison 10-year-olds and ignore advice from world experts on this issue.
“At a United Nations meeting in January this year, 31 UN Member States called on Australia to raise the age, yet these calls went unheeded.”
Mr Mercer said existing laws also disproportionately impacted young Indigenous and Torres Strait Islanders.
“When Indigenous children are 24 times more likely to be incarcerated than non-Indigenous Australian children, how can we say our country is moving towards reconciliation and mutual respect as we continue to imprison Indigenous children as young as 10?” he said.
“A report from the Sentencing Advisory Council found 94 per cent of children in detention from the ages of 10 to 12 return to prison before they are 18 and are more likely to re-offend.
“Meanwhile, a 2020 Productivity Commission report found raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14 could decrease the number of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in detention by 15 per cent.
“If we are serious about reducing juvenile crime, we do not need to lock more children up, we need to provide guidance and positive and meaningful opportunities for young Queenslanders, to create a safter and healthier community for all.”
In addition to support for Queenslanders facing poverty or homelessness, Vinnies Queensland runs a Youth program that provides community support, mentorship, activities and leadership programs for disengaged or at-risk youth.
“It’s amazing to see the difference a bit of early intervention, compassion and care can make for at-risk youth – that’s where we should be heading as a society,” Mr Mercer said.
In the last financial year, Vinnies Queensland provided mentorship to more than 500 young people through its Vinnies Youth program and provided support to Queenslanders under the age of 16 on more than 82,000 Queenslanders occasions.