Stop putting children in jail says AMA

Australian Medical Association

Don’t settle for 12 years old as the age of criminal responsibility the AMA urges NT legislators.

The Northern Territory is set to pass legislation which will see the age of criminal responsibility in the Territory rise from 10-years-old to 12, however the AMA says the changes do not go far enough and the minimum age for incarceration should be 14 years old.

The Northern Territory law will still allow children in primary school and in their first year of high school to be placed in jails like the Don Dale Youth Detention Facility. There is disproportionate representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children detained in the Northern Territory.

AMA President Professor Steve Robson urged Northern Territory legislators to listen to the experts and support alternatives to prison.

“The health advice is clear, kids aged 12 and 13 should not be held criminally responsible,” Professor Robson said.

AMA Northern Territory President, Associate Professor Robert Parker, said the AMA was also calling on the Northern Territory Government to close the Don Dale Youth Detention Facility.

“AMA members are concerned about the lack of urgency shown by the Northern Territory Government to act on the recommendations from the royal commission and inquiry into the protection and detention of children in the Territory, which is now over five-years-old,” Dr Parker said.

“The AMA is very concerned by reports the Don Dale Detention Youth Detention Facility is expanding accommodation and that the number of young people detained is on the rise, as well as recent reports of staff shortages at the centre.

“We remain very concerned about children detained in the facility. A number of these children are subjected to extended periods of isolation in inadequate conditions,” Dr Parker said.

“There are models around the country which are community-led, culturally appropriate programs which are helping kids stay healthy, grow and thrive, all the while breaking down the cycle of incarceration.”

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