Research examines why Australia must raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility

The latest research by Dr Wendy O’Brien (Deakin University) and Monash criminologist Dr Kate Fitz-Gibbon examines the minimum age of criminal responsibility in Victoria (Australia). Wendy and Kate’s research, entitled “The Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility in Victoria (Australia): Examining Stakeholders’ Views and the Need for Principled Reform“, has been published Online First in Youth Justice.

In Australia, children as young as 10 years old are charged, convicted and sentenced for breaches of the law. Drawing on interviews conducted in 2016 with 48 youth justice professionals in Victoria, the article finds that inconsistencies in practice undermine the extent to which the common-law presumption of doli incapax offers an effective legal safeguard for very young children in conflict with the law. The article advocates that the Australian minimum age of criminal responsibility should be increased to 14 years old, that the principle of doli incapax be applied consistently to all persons under the age of 18 and that justice responses be supplanted by therapeutic supports for children and families.

Click here to access the article.

This article is part of a program of comparative research that Wendy and Kate are currently undertaking examining legal responses to children before the law, with a particular focus on children’s rights and criminal justice responses in Australia and elsewhere.