Raising Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility

Australian Greens

Ministers Rattenbury and Davidson have released a position paper which gives more detail on the ACT Government’s commitment to raising the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility (MACR) through a two-stage approach.

Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury said the paper summarises key decisions, how this reform will be implemented and that this will inform productive future discussions with community sector partners.

“In 2023, the ACT Government will move a single Bill to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 12, and then to 14 years within the 2 years after that,” said the Attorney-General.

“This transition period allows the government to put in place the necessary range of social support services needed to support children who might otherwise enter the criminal justice system. This is a significant and complex change, being led by the ACT, and we will implement it thoughtfully and effectively.

“The government has undertaken extensive consultation on this complex change with expert policy makers, key stakeholders and the wider community. We have taken this time to consider the different needs of stakeholders, families, victims and the young people themselves, which will feed into the legislation and system changes.”

Minister responsible for Youth Justice Emma Davidson said that raising the age of criminal responsibility will re-imagine the youth justice system and shift our approach from a criminal response to a social services matter – where early intervention is key.

“Young Canberrans deserve the right support to live their best lives, grow healthy and happy and know they belong in our community,” said Minister Davidson.

“Many young people who engage in harmful behaviours face a number of challenges in their lives such as mental health issues, childhood trauma, domestic and family violence, drug and alcohol issues, homelessness, and family breakdowns. For some young people, these issues are inter-generational, and these social services system reforms are an opportunity for transformational change for those families. When we have the right support in place, we can ensure our young people and their families are making decisions that keep them and our community safe.”

“It’s important we get this right, as the earlier we provide support to people in their life, the more they can contribute to our community as they grow. Once a young person enters the justice system, they are more likely to re-enter later in life as an adult, and face challenges to employment, education, health and homelessness. We also need to consider the impact on victims in these reforms so that our whole community has access to the right support to become stronger, happier and healthier.”

Feedback gathered throughout the consultation period identified a community expectation that there would continue to be a strong response to young people who cause serious harm. The paper outlines an in-principle decision that:

• There will be no exceptions to the MACR for children under 12 years – they will be completely removed from the criminal justice system.

• Legislation will be drafted to include the option for exceptions for 12 and 13 year-olds, enabling young people aged 12 or 13 to be charged only if they are alleged to have committed the most serious of offences.

Raising the Age of Criminal Responsibility is a commitment under the Parliamentary and Governing Agreement.

Read the full media release: https://www.cmtedd.act.gov.au/open_government/inform/act_government_media_releases/rattenbury/2022/raising-the-minimum-age-of-criminal-responsibility

/Public Release. View in full here.