Paediatricians urge Council of Attorneys-General to listen to medical advice and raise the age of criminal responsibility

 27 April 2023

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP), representing paediatricians and physicians, says that the Standing Council of Attorneys-General (SCAG) must finally commit to raising the age of criminal responsibility to 14 across Australia.

The College has written to members of the SCAG ahead of their meeting on Friday, urging them to heed the medical advice.

RACP President and Paediatrician Dr Jacqueline Small says “We have been calling on the Standing Council of Attorneys-General to raise the age of criminal responsibility across Australia for too long now.

“Meanwhile, while some leaders tip toe around this issue, there are children across the country who are sitting in youth detention instead of getting the holistic care they need.

“Our laws are harming children and governments can no longer squander this opportunity to reform our system.

“We are also disappointed to see that where Governments are acting, so far they are falling short of the medical advice to raise the age to 14.

“Changing the age of criminal responsibility age to anything below 14 is simply dismissing the medical advice.

“We acknowledge the Victorian Government’s move to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 12 and then to 14 in 2027. While we’d like this to happen sooner, it is a move in the right direction,” Dr Small said.

The RACP wrote to the Victorian Attorney-General last week, urging the Government to raise the age to 14 with ‘no exceptions – no carve outs’.

Professor Nitin Kapur, President of the Paediatrics and Child Health Division and RACP spokesperson says “The harms that come from incarcerating children under 14 can last a lifetime and exacerbate existing inequities that young people who go through the justice system face.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are disproportionally represented in the criminal justice system and make up 59% of all youth detention across Australia. This reflects ongoing health inequities they face and perpetuates intergenerational trauma.”

“We should not be incarcerating children under the age of 14.

“We should be ensuring that young people have access to wrap-around services and community-supported programs, rather than putting them in youth detention.

“It’s time to listen to the medical experts and fix this system once and for all,” said Professor Kapur.

Close overlay