Amnesty International Australia has made a submission to Queensland’s inquiry into the Criminal Law (Raising the Age of Responsibility) Amendment Bill 2021.
The age of criminal responsibility is the age in which a child is considered by law to have understood that their actions were wrong and can face criminal charges. All Australian states and territories have this age set at only 10 years old. This means that across Australia, police have the power to arrest, strip-search and imprison children who are only 10 – that’s typically a child in year three or four at primary school.
The Queensland Government must do all it can to keep children out of prison. This doesn’t mean children who commit crimes aren’t held responsible, but alternatives – such as diversion programs – must be investigated and resourced.
In it’s submission, Amnesty has recommended the Queensland Government adopt the following measures:
- Immediately raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility to at least 14 years old;
- That the presumption of doli incapax be abolished , and alternatives such as ‘developmental immaturity’ be enshrined in legislation;
- Increase the allocation of funding to Indigenous community-led and controlled organisations to support culturally appropriate, place-based, Indigenous designed and led preventative programs to address the needs of children under 14 years at risk of entering the justice system. This funding should be allocated to Indigenous-led organisations and programs in proportion to the over representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the justice system;
- Invest in the creation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander judicial resources and provide funding for psychologists to train and undertake neurocognitive testing for children who display risk factors for future offending when in contact with police, doctors or schools; and
- Legislate so that children cannot be held in police watch houses overnight.