Law Reform Puts ACT Teens ‘at Mercy of Crime Groups’

The ACT has become the first jurisdiction in the nation to increase the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 14, igniting concerns that young teenagers could be “manipulated by adult offenders or serious organised crime syndicates”. ACT Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury said the shake-up in the nation’s capital was aimed at preventing young people from “ending up in the criminal justice system”. The ACT legislative assembly passed the bill with the Liberals unsuccessfully trying to limit the increase to 12 years of age to ensure any consequences could be carefully considered before taking further steps to lift the minimum age to 14 years. Under the new regime, the minimum age of criminal responsibility will be lifted to 12 years before increasing to 14 years on July 1, 2025, with Mr Rattenbury saying the reform was aimed at “changing the trajectory for young people and improving the safety of our whole community”. While Australian Federal Police Association (AFPA) president Alex Caruana said he accepted increasing the criminal age of responsibility in the ACT to 12 years of age, he flagged major concerns at the “automatic movement to the age of 14 in two years’ time”.

“The AFPA’s preference would have been to review and interrogate the data obtained before the move to 14 years of age to determine if that movement was required,” he said. “We do have some concerns with young people aged between 12 and 14 committing serious offences and not being held criminally responsible.” He suggested that young children in Canberra would now be at greater risk of being used by organised crime groups to commit burglaries and other crimes. “We also have concerns that 12 to 14-year-olds may be manipulated by adult offenders or serious organised crime syndicates for the purpose of committing criminal offences on behalf of the adult or syndicate,” he said. “These adults and crime syndicates will know that the young person can’t be charged or held criminally responsible.”  Defending the increase to the minimum age of criminal responsibility, Mr. Rattenbury said young people got themselves into “harmful situations” and that “they need support to address that behaviour”. “We want to make sure that young people are not ending up in the criminal justice system, but rather that they are being delivered therapeutic supports and that their lives are on a different track,” he said.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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