The Victorian Greens have welcomed today’s indication from the Premier that the state government may move on raising the age of criminal responsibility in the coming months.
Yet the Greens have also strongly urged the Government to ensure any bill introduced to Parliament raises the age to at least 14 years old, consistent with the Greens’ own bill that is currently before the Legislative Council.
The Greens say anything that falls short of this would represent a weak politicised decision, and one that is entirely inconsistent with all the advice from leading medical, legal and human rights groups from across the world.
Victorian Greens justice spokesperson, Katherine Copsey, said children should be cared for and protected, supported and guided to learn and grow, not charged, convicted and even imprisoned.
She said it was a sad indictment on our ‘Dickensian’ criminal justice system that children as young as ten could still be arrested, put through the court system and potentially locked up, despite universal recognition that this causes life-long damage.
Earlier this year, the Greens re-introduced their bill to amend section 344 of the Children Youth and Families Act 2005 to raise the age of criminal responsibility in Victoria to 14, as well as outlawing the use of solitary confinement in youth justice facilities.
The Greens’ bill recognises that any law reform could only commence after the state’s existing therapeutic and restorative justice programs were further developed and strengthened as an alternative to the criminal justice system, a process that cannot commence until the Government first commits to raising the age.
Quotes attributable to Victorian Greens justice spokesperson, Katherine Copsey MLC:
“If Australia’s A-Gs are going to continue to drop the ball on raising the age to 14, it’s time for the Premier to pick it up. And as we have been saying for the last four years, he will have no stronger ally on this issue than the Victorian Greens.
"Aboriginal children account for almost 65 per cent of young people behind bars around Australia. It is more than time we changed that.
“We cannot simply give up on the most vulnerable young children, and just accept that their lives are destined to follow a path of greater trauma, mental illness, ongoing contact with the adult prison system and premature death, not due to their own complex needs, but because of the way our society chooses to respond.
“The Victorian Government has an opportunity right now to lead the nation on this reform that we hope will encourage all other states to follow suit."