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‘Game-changing’ recommendation to raise age of criminal responsibility needs urgent adoption

The Law Council called for the immediate adoption of two key recommendations in the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory final report – including that the age of criminal responsibility be raised from 10 to at least 12, which would be an Australian-first and in line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CROC).

The Law Council also strongly supports the Commission’s recommendation that no child under 14 should be sentenced to detention, except in the most serious cases.

However, the Law Council warned raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility should not be used to justify the removal of the doctrine of doli incapax.  

“Children belong in their communities, with their families and support networks. The detention of children should be a last resort and never a first-step,” Law Council President Fiona McLeod SC said.

The Northern Territory has the highest rate of children and young people in detention in Australia, with an overwhelmingly disproportionate impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. The Royal Commission’s report further demonstrates ‘tough on crime’ approaches do not work.

The Law Council has called for a national, co-operative and consultative approach to remedying the high number of children and youth in detention with a greater focus on early intervention, prevention, rehabilitation and community-led diversion programs.

The Law Council will carefully consider the recommendations and work with its Constituent Bodies, including the Law Society of the NT and the NT Bar Association, on any response required.

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