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Amnesty calls on police to show community leadership with a moratorium on arresting kids

Amnesty International Australia has called for a national moratorium on arresting children under the age of 14.

Federal Parliament last week passed a motion agreeing in principle to raise the age of criminal responsibility, and the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) has recommended Australia raises the age to 14. 

However, the Council of Attorneys-General last year responded to overwhelming evidence from the CRC and international experts on the harm caused by locking kids up by ordering yet another review.

“It is abundantly clear to anyone who cares to examine the evidence that imprisoning children as young as 10 is harmful only prepares them for a life caught in the quicksand of the criminal justice system,” Amnesty International Australia Indigenous Rights Lead, Lidia Thorpe, said.

“The police are on the front line of this youth justice crisis and we’re calling on them to show the kind of leadership in the community that our politicians have so far been able to.”

“No child under 14 should go to prison during this review. Even while the politicians delay, our police force can act,” Thorpe said. 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children make up less than 6 percent of children aged 10-17 years, they make up 54 per cent of children in prison. 

“We saw with the Close the Gap report recently that the over representation of Indigenous people in Australian prisons is leading to devastating consequences, and we know that keeping our babies out of jail would have an immediate and long-lasting effect on turning the tide of discrimination and disadvantage.”

“Instead of arresting children under the age of 14, police must do everything they can to divert kids away from the justice system and into the help they need to live happy, healthy lives.” 

Amnesty International Australia made a submission to the Council of Attorneys-General Age of Criminal Responsibility Working Group review calling on State and Territory governments to: 

  • Immediately raise the age of criminal responsibility to at least 14 years old, with no limitations under this age; 
  • Transition all children out of prison within a year; 
  • Abolish the notion of doli incapax
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