Tasmania Raises Minimum Age of Detention

Tasmania will become the first Australian jurisdiction to raise the minimum age of detention from 10 to 14 years old. The change is likely to go into force in 2024. Australian states agreed to take steps to raise the age to 12 after pressure from the UN last year.

Raising the age for youth detention to 14 years old is part of a broader set of reforms to Tasmania’s justice system. The state’s Children and Youth Minister Roger Jaensch said the move was “one key element in our plan to build a nation-leading, best-practice approach to young people in conflict with the law.”

The Indigenous Rights Advisor to Amnesty International Australia, Rodney Dillan, said while Amnesty welcomed the step, they “would like to see the government’s commitment to increasing the age of detention reflected in a commitment to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14 as well.”

Youth detention and criminal responsibility are not one and the same. Changing the minimum age for detention means kids can’t be incarcerated, but it doesn’t mean they can’t be arrested, held in adult facilities for questioning, and made to appear before a court.

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child released recommendations in 2019, that the minimum age of criminal responsibility should be 14. Australia has rejected calls to act on the UN counsel, despite being urged to do so by 31 countries at the UN last year.  

Almost half of all Australians actually believe the age of criminal responsibility is currently set at 16, not 10. Amnesty research from last year shows most citizens support raising the age.

Chair of the Prisoners Legal Service (PLS), Greg Barns, expressed in strong terms that not enough was being done to support vulnerable children. Not in Tasmania, nor in the federal government. “The PLS does not believe anyone under the age of 18 should be in detention,” he said.

Although children under 14 can no longer be detained in Tasmania, they can still be arrested and brought before a court. The age of criminal responsibility remains set at 10 nationwide.

“I’d argue that is not the most appropriate way to manage the harmful or risky behaviour of a child as young as 10,” said Children’s commissioner Leanne McLean.

Come back on Monday for a breakdown of Australia’s youth detention system, and the disproportionate incarceration of Indigenous children in our nation.

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