Paediatricians call for urgent action to address report calling for all governments to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14

12 December 2022 

Paediatricians and physicians from the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) say that governments around Australia must act with urgency to address the findings of the Draft Final Report 2020, Council of Attorneys General, Age of Criminal Responsibility Working Group, that recommends raising the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14.

RACP President and Paediatrician Dr Jacqueline Small says “It’s outrageous that there has been a report sitting with state leaders and governments that advises them to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14, and little has been done about it.

“The report presents a clear pathway forward for governments to address this issue, including recommendation two, which calls for each jurisdiction to review gaps in its prevention, early intervention and diversionary programs in order to ensure children under the age of criminal responsibility gain the support they need.”

“Including child health and education services in these programs is also critically important to address issues such as trauma, developmental delay and disability as well as physical health and wellbeing.

"While the previous Commonwealth Government did not endorse the report, the majority of the working group representing states and territories were satisfied that the report comprehensively reflects the evidence and views of consultation.

“Medical professionals have been saying for years that locking up kids as young as ten is harmful and detrimental to their health and wellbeing, and we are pleased to read that the report has considered the medical evidence provided by the RACP.  

“Now is the time to act on the medical advice, and implement the recommendations of the report provided to the Council of Attorneys-General, and finally update legislation to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14.

“Incarcerating children under 14 causes serious harms for them and their communities.

“Exposure to the criminal legal system has direct consequences on the education, development, mental and physical health, and adult incarceration rates, of these children.”

We look forward to participating in the expanded consultation that the report calls for and continuing to provide a specialist medical perspective on this critical area of child health.

About the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP):

The RACP trains, educates and advocates on behalf of over 18,000 physicians and 8,000 trainee physicians, across Australia and New Zealand. The College represents a broad range of medical specialties including general medicine, paediatrics and child health, cardiology, respiratory medicine, infectious diseases, neurology, oncology, public health medicine, occupational and environmental medicine, palliative medicine, sexual health medicine, rehabilitation medicine, geriatric medicine, and addiction medicine. Beyond the drive for medical excellence, the RACP is committed to developing health and social policies which bring vital improvements to the wellbeing of patient. The College offers 61 training pathways. These lead to the award of one of seven qualifications that align with 45 specialist titles recognised by the Medical Board of Australia or allow for registration in nine vocational scopes with the Medical Council of New Zealand.


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