Twelve is still too young: RACP urges Attorneys-General to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14 years in line with expert health advice

Tuesday, 16 November 2021

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) say the decision by Australia’s Attorneys-General to develop a proposal to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 12 instead of 14 years is seriously concerning and deeply disappointing.

The RACP has repeatedly called for raising the age to 14 years as a member of the Raise the Age campaign steering group. Raising the age to only 12 years still means that 456 out of the 499 children under 14 years in prison last year would remain locked away behind bars.1 

RACP President, Professor John Wilson, says, “This decision flies in the face of all medical expert recommendations and the concerns of paediatricians around the country.

“It’s disappointing that the Attorneys-General are still failing to heed the advice of physicians and paediatricians. The evidence has clearly shown that incarcerating children this young causes serious harms and does not improve outcomes for the individual or the community.”

“We know from the pandemic that cherry-picking medical advice can have devastating consequences. The consequences of youth incarceration should not fall to the same fate.”  

Medical experts and bodies, along with First Nations organisations, and legal and human rights experts, have continuously advised against incarcerating children younger than 14 years due to the detrimental effects on their physical and psychological health and wellbeing. 

RACP spokesperson, Paediatrician and Adolescent Health Specialist Dr. Mick Creati, says, “Simply agreeing to develop a proposal is not a concrete commitment to actually take action. This is an empty commitment that does nothing to give children the help they need to lead healthy and happy lives in their homes, schools, and communities.

“Governments need to stop putting vulnerable children in gaol for behaviours that are a direct consequence of their young age, their disability or their earlier trauma. Instead, governments need to provide these children with the care, support and treatment that they need and that preserves their dignity and human rights.”

The RACP, alongside the Raise the Age coalition, is continuing to call on every state and territory to take urgent action to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14.

1Data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s ‘Youth justice in Australia 2019-20 report’ –

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