The Animal Justice Party (AJP) believes that 10 years old is too young for any child to be considered a “criminal”. Australia must adopt the United Nations suggested age of 14 years for criminal responsibility.
The age of criminal responsibility is the age at which, under law, a child is determined to know the difference between ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ and at which they are criminally liable for their actions.
Australia is one of only a handful of countries that still uses 10 years as the age of criminal responsibility. This is despite a 2019 call to Australia by the United Nations to raise our age of criminal responsibility to 14 years, in line with several European countries (Austria, Germany, Italy and Spain). Some Scandinavian countries set the age at 15 years. Human rights groups, like Amnesty International, also support raising the age of criminal responsibility to 14 years.
In Australia, approximately 600 children under 14 are detained every year. Children between 10 and 14 years are presumed innocent in a court of law unless the prosecution can demonstrate that they knew right from wrong. Raising the age to 14 years will keep many children out of the criminal justice system.
First Nations people make up 3.3% of the general population but almost half of the children in detention. Detention further entrenches ongoing disadvantage and discrimination affecting many First Nations communities.
Justice requires options for therapeutic and restorative care, especially First Nations designed and led programs, that will keep children away from courts and prisons while addressing and preventing any harmful behaviour displayed by young children.