Mon. Aug 15th, 2022

An independent authority is needed to review the ACT’s juvenile justice system as it prepares to raise the age of criminal responsibility, according to a report highlighting the challenges facing other states, including NSW.

In Australia, children as young as 10 years old can be held criminally responsible for their actions and imprisoned, and talks between the country’s Advocates General to raise the age to the UN’s recommended 14 have stalled.

ACT Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury said his government is committed to raising the age at which children can be jailed from 10 to 14.

ACT Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury said his government is committed to raising the age at which children can be jailed from 10 to 14. Credit:Elesa Kurtz.

The ACT is the only jurisdiction committed to raising the age to 14, and legislation is expected to be introduced in parliament next year.

An independent review of the state of the juvenile justice system led by Emeritus Professor Morag McArthur in partnership with Aboriginal consulting firm Curijo has found several issues with the availability of preventive services, the sector’s workforce, lack of crisis accommodation and lack of trauma-informed care for children.

It also warned that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander residents should play a key role in shaping any response given their over-representation in the criminal justice system.

“However, this review does not deter us from the challenge that lies ahead. In fact, we now know how to make it happen. We know the importance of this reform and we remain committed to raising the minimum age for criminal liability, ”said ACT Attorney General Shane Rattenbury.

According to the report, limited early intervention programs for young children, especially indigenous children, were of particular concern.

“Almost all stakeholders raised the question of how difficult it is for children to access mental health, disability and alcohol and other drug services, by identifying long waiting lists or narrow eligibility criteria for specialized services,” it said.

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