The Law Society of Tasmania says a decision by the Council of Attorneys-General to defer consideration on potentially raising the age of criminal responsibility for at least 12 months is disappointing.
Law society president Crystal Gardwood said the body supported changing the age of criminal responsibility from 10 years to 14 years as it was acknowledged children were not sufficiently able to reflect before committing a criminal act or comprehend its consequences.
“At the age of 10, a child’s brain is still developing, particularly as to reasoning, impulsivity and consequential thinking,” she said.
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Ms Garwood said the Tasmanian community was not any safer by having children aged less than 14 years old detained.
At present, children under 10 who commit a crime are either counselled by parents or counselled by a professional.
They cannot be arrested, charged, summonsed, or found guilty of a criminal offence by a court.
A notification can made to Child Safety Services if it is deemed they are receiving inadequately supervision or care.
Advocates of an increased age have suggested sending young people to detention does little to divert a child from a life of crime or rehabilitate them.
Ms Garwood said early intervention program Youth On Track, developed by New South Wales Government, had a good record of success.
She said Finland had a youth crime diversary program with measures that included economic and social support for parents, and psychological, substance abuse and educational support for the child.
Ms Garwood said children who committed serious crimes in Portugal might be sent to open or closed residential facilities.
According to Justice Department data, there were two 12-year-olds, eight 13-year-olds, and 60 children aged 14 years old held in watch-houses in Tasmania in 2019.
There were no 10 or 11-year-old children held in detention.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data showed there were nearly 600 children aged 10 to 13 years in detention in 2018-19 across the country.
About 65 per cent of these children were Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.
The campaign to raise the age has the support of the Law Council of Australia, the Australian Medical Association, and Amnesty International.
Tasmania’s Attorney-General Elise Archer, who chaired the Council of Attorneys-General meeting on Monday, said any reform in the area needed to be nationally consistent.
An increased age for criminal culpability is supported by Labor and the Greens.
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