Raise the Age

Letters on Raising the Age

The ACT Legislative Assembly passed a motion on 20 August 2020 saying the ACT should raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14, but that it would not happen until after the ACT election in October 2020.

Yassine wrote to the Chief Minister and the Attorney-General of the ACT to ask them to promise they would do it if they win the election and also to lobby other states and territories to do the same. The Attorney-General sent back a handwritten card promising to do it if they win the election.

Mr. Gordon Ramsay MLA
Australian Capital Territory

Dear Mr. Ramsay,

I wrote to Chief Minister Barr to ask if he could please try to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14 or maybe even more than that because kids under 14 can’t really think ahead and stop themselves from doing dumb things. 

I turned 10 this year, and when I stole my dad’s new earphones and played with them, I knew I was doing something that was wrong, but I still did it. If I had done that at the Apple Store, and someone called the police, I could have been arrested. I was lucky, because it was just my dad’s, so I just got a big lecture and a grumpy dad. But some kids aren’t as lucky, but they’re still just kids like me

When I heard that the State and Territory Attorneys-General decided not to raise the age last month, I was really sad. I’m happy that the ACT Assembly agreed to raise the age if you win the election this year and I hope you will persuade all the other States and Territories to do it too.

Yours sincerely,

23 August 2020

Zari wrote to the leader of the Canberra Liberals (Alistair Coe) and the Shadow Attorney-General (Jeremy Hanson), because the Liberals voted against the motion, so if they win the ACT election, they might not do it.

Mr Jeremy Hanson CSC
Shadow Attorney-General
ACT Legislative Assembly
GPO Box 1020
Canberra ACT 2601

Dear Mr Hanson,

The ACT Assembly recently passed a motion to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14 years. The Canberra Liberals voted against it. Close to 600 children aged 10 to 13 are locked up in Australia each year. Around two thirds of these children are Indigenous. The Royal Australian College of Physicians says that kids this age aren’t mentally developed enough to understand what they are doing, even though they know it’s wrong. The Law Council of Australia also says that criminal punishments do not work on children. Children who go through the criminal justice system are much more likely to become criminals, and much less likely to get jobs. In the long term putting kids in prison makes society less safe. 

My sister is 10 years old right now and I don’t think she is capable of thinking through the consequences of something she does. If she’s angry or frustrated or even just bored, she may do something dumb and not think about the implications of what she’s doing. Probably, my sister will never end up coming into contact with the criminal justice system, because she is lucky and has a comfortable middle class life and family, with lots of attention. Rich middle class kids can also do bad things, but they will be able to afford good lawyers and support programs to keep them out of prison. The kids who do end up doing bad things are not bad kids. They are just kids like me and my sister and your kids.

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child says the minimum age of criminal responsibility should be at least 14, and yet Australia is still putting 10 year olds in prison. Why are the Canberra Liberals supporting this?

Yours sincerely,
25 August 2020

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