Northern Territory Council of Social Service

Delay to raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility

NTCOSS is deeply disappointed at the decision of the Council of Attorneys-General to delay raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility, while more time is spent searching for alternative responses.

This response disregards the evidence presented by experts from across the country and ignores the therapeutic alternatives already available.

The decision to delay this crucial reform will continue to have devastating impacts for children unnecessarily caught up in the justice system. Children who come into contact with this system are more likely to reoffend, and have severe, negative health and wellbeing outcomes.

An overwhelming proportion of children who engage in offending behaviour have experienced trauma and extreme disadvantage. We need to focus on responses that link children to support services, and that support strong family and community connections.

The Northern Territory Government has committed to creating a leading and best practice youth justice system, and to putting children and families at the centre of its policies. Keeping children out of detention and providing support early in a child’s life are central to these reforms. NTCOSS calls on the Northern Territory Government to lead the way, and honour its commitment in the Safe, Thriving and Connected plan, to raising the age of criminal responsibility by 2021. In keeping with contemporary evidence and understanding of child and adolescent brain development, NTCOSS calls on the NT Government to expand on this commitment and increase the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 14 years.