New Youth Justice Department must raise minimum age of criminal responsibility

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Anglicare is calling on the new Youth Justice Department to prioritise removing children from adult watch houses and raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14

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Anglicare is calling on the new Youth Justice Department to prioritise removing children from adult watch houses and raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14.

The not-for-profit charity has been working with at-risk children and youths for more than 20 years and says Queensland’s approach is currently inconsistent with international standards.

Group Manager for Anglicare Southern Queensland’s Children & Families services, Tammy Lloyd, said international precedent and extensive evidence suggested the minimum age of criminal responsibility should be at least 14.

“Youth detention centres are an inappropriate response for minor offences and for young people on remand who have nowhere else to go,” Ms Lloyd said.

“Anglicare strongly supports mechanisms that divert young people from the court system and we believe the minimum age of criminal responsibility should be at least 14 years.

“It is internationally acknowledged that children under 14 lack the capacity to fully understand and participate in criminal proceedings.

“We believe early intervention should sit within the sphere of mainstream education, health, social care, youth and community work, to best address disadvantage and welfare needs.”

Anglicare Southern Queensland runs a range of specialist programs to support at-risk youth, including outreach services for young people on bail to engage them in education, employment and support services such as counselling.

Ms Lloyd said recent media coverage of children being held in adult watch houses were disturbing, but just expanding the capacity of youth detention centres was not the answer.

“Expanding youth detention centres may help to get children out of adult prisons, but it will not support them to improve their lives,” she said.

“While we welcome the Queensland Government’s commitment to rehabilitation programs, we don’t believe 10-year-olds should be in youth detention at all.

“The evidence shows that a disproportionate number of young people in contact with the youth justice system have been victims of abuse, trauma and neglect. They also have high rates of drug and alcohol abuse, as well as mental health issues.

“Without denying the importance of community safety, therapeutic and integrative trauma-informed approaches are more likely to reduce reoffending behaviour in this age group than prison-like environments.”

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