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The NT will become the first Australian jurisdiction to raise the age of criminal responsibility

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Instead of being detained, children under 12 who have committed a criminal offence will be redirected to intervention programs.

The Northern Territory (NT) will become the first state or territory to raise the age of criminal responsibility in Australia.

This means children under 12 can no longer be detained once the law comes into effect in the second half of next year.

It passed with the support of the Labor Government. The Liberal Opposition voted against it.

What does this mean?

The Bill has changed the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 12 and inserts further protections for children aged 12 and 13 who are facing a criminal sentence.
Instead of being detained, children under 12 who have committed a criminal offence will be redirected to intervention programs.

Any child detained in the NT for a crime committed when they were under 12 will be returned to their homes or put in interim accommodation. Criminal proceedings against children under 12 will also be dropped.

Police involvement

Police won’t be able to issue any charges or prosecute crimes against children under 12.

However, they will still be able to investigate and intervene in crimes committed by people under the age of criminal responsibility.

Police will redirect children committing a crime to a parent or guardian, or a protective care agency.

The rest of Australia

The age of criminal responsibility at the federal level, and in all other states and territories, is 10.

The ACT Government is planning to table legislation next year that will incrementally raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14. It is also under consideration in multiple Australian states.

Royal Commission

The passed legislation comes after a 2017 Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the NT recommended the age of criminal responsibility be raised to 12.

Last week, a separate report from the United Nations Committee Against Torture recommended that Australia raise the age of criminal responsibility and expressed “serious concern” about the condition of children in detention across the country.

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