A child's hands on a fence

Independent expert: Minimum age of criminal responsibility should be at least 14

An independent report presented to the UN has recommended that the minimum age of criminal responsibility should be at least 14.

Manfred Nowak, the Independent Expert leading the global study on children deprived of liberty says that ‘States should establish a minimum age of criminal responsibility, which shall not be below 14 years of age’.

The report, presented to The United Nations General Assembly states: despite encouragement by the Committee on the Rights of the Child to States to increase the minimum age of criminal responsibility to at least 14 years, over 120 States [including Australia] maintain the minimum age at below 14

offences, petty crimes and low minimum ages of criminal responsibility, as well as widespread discrimination and corruption, contribute to a large number of children being deprived of liberty. Similar reasons are behind restrictive migration and asylum policies and extensive counter-terrorism practices.

In response, Amnesty International Indigenous Rights Advocate Joel Clark said:
“Yet another International Expert has made it known that Australia is ignoring the expertise advice of human rights, medical and law experts by not raising the age of criminal responsibility.

“The Commonwealth and every state and territory lock children as young as ten behind bars. This harms them and increases the likelihood they will offend later in life, with children arrested before the age of 14 three times more likely to commit offences as adults than children arrested after 14. Many children entering the criminal justice system become trapped, and are less likely to complete their education and find employment.

“Every Attorney-General in every government in this country needs to stop and think about what locking up kids as ten means: it means little children away from community in harmful environments and it means increase likelihood of re-offending.

“It is time to listen to the deafening call of experts around the world and raise the age of criminal responsibility now.