The Victorian Greens have urged the Victorian Labor Government to raise the age of criminal responsibility to at least 14, following reports today it intends to raise it to only 12.
The Greens say raising the age to just 12 would represent a timid, politicised decision that completely ignores what First Nations communities have been calling for for decades.
It would also be entirely inconsistent with the advice from leading medical, legal and human rights groups across the world.
Acting Leader of the Victorian Greens, Dr Tim Read, said children should be cared for and protected, supported and guided, to learn and grow, not charged, convicted and even imprisoned.
He added that the Victorian Labor Government’s decision to do the bare minimum on this was very telling, and revealed that the police were the ones who held the ear of Government, rather than the experts or communities affected.
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.
It is a sad indictment on our criminal justice system that children as young as twelve could still be arrested, put through the court system and potentially locked up, despite universal recognition that this causes life-long damage.
Quotes attributable to Acting Leader of the Victorian Greens, Dr Tim Read:
“It’s outrageous that despite decades of advocacy by First Nations people and mountains of evidence that we need to raise the age to 14, the Government is happy to only raise it to 12.
"Aboriginal children account for almost 65 per cent of young people behind bars around Australia. To change this, we need strong action, not a timid gesture.
“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 and they’re squibbing it.
“Twelve-year-olds are still too young for Facebook, so why does the Victorian Labor Government want to drag them to court and even prison?”