Age of criminal responsibility must be raised in current Youth Justice Amendment Bill
27th May 2019
The age of criminal responsibility in the NT should have been raised as part of the Youth Justice and Related Legislation Amendment Bill 2019 that is currently under review, say lawyers.
“We are very disappointed that the NT Government has not used the opportunity presented by this Bill to legislate for this change,” said Michael Grove, NT ALA President. “It is now over 12 months since the NT Government committed to raising the age of criminal responsibility of children from 10 to 12 and this delay is unacceptable.
“In the Northern Territory, over 90 per cent of young people in detention are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and it is hard to have real hope for their rehabilitation when they are being exposed to the justice system at such a young age.
“The stated intention of the Bill is to implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory so we cannot understand why this important recommendation was excluded.
“We know that raising the age of criminal responsibility will significantly reduce the rate of incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people. Any young person should only ever be detained as a last resort.”
In a submission to the Inquiry into the Youth Justice and Related Legislation Amendment Bill 2019, the ALA states that no child under the age of 14 should be sentenced to detention, except in the most serious cases, in accordance with the recommendations of the Royal Commission.
“We support the other key changes in the Bill which all aim to reduce the rate of incarceration of young people in the NT. However we strongly believe that, to actually have a significant impact, the age of criminal responsibility must be raised as part of this Bill.”
In the submission the ALA also strongly opposed the Youth Justice Amendment Act 2019, which was rushed through Parliament recently without consultation.
“This Act not only unwinds the protections that were put in place following the Royal Commission report, but actually gives detention centre officers more authority than they had before the Royal Commission,” said Mr Grove. “These new laws effectively authorise officers to do those things that were severely criticised by the Royal Commission as having no place in youth detention. The amendments provide extremely unusual, unnecessary and sweeping powers and we are horrified that they have been passed.”
The ALA is a national association of lawyers, academics and other professionals dedicated to protecting and promoting justice, freedom and the rights of the individual.