‘They’re not bad kids’: Submission to the review of the age of criminal responsibility

The Youth Coalition strongly supports raising the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility (MACR) to at least 14 years in all circumstances. Young people who enter the criminal justice system often experience compounded forms of disadvantage and should be supported not criminalised. Our position on this issue is underpinned by the notion that offending children and young people should have their needs, and not only their deeds addressed. Historically, the incarceration of a young person has been centred in determining the individual’s ability to assess the wrongfulness of their actions. Yet, recent research has clearly shown “the very youngsters who are assumed to have the capacity to take responsibility for their behaviour are those who have the least capacity to do so”. This is evidenced by the high rates of compounded and complex forms of disadvantage, disability, and vulnerability young offenders experience. Some suggest 80% of young people in juvenile Australian detention settings have been subject to severe trauma prior to incarceration

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