Jesuit Social Services was pleased to provide feedback on the Northern Territory Government’s consultation to increase the minimum age of criminal responsibility – a landmark reform that will be life-changing for some of the Territory’s most vulnerable children.

We commend the Government for progressing the important recommendation from the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 12. However we believe the Government can and should go further and raise the age to 14 years.

Our submission is grounded in our experience in the Northern Territory providing restorative, therapeutic and practical support to young people in the justice system. We strongly believe that prison should only ever be used as a last resort, and that community-based responses must be available to help children take responsibility for their actions and engage them in positive pathways.

Summary of our recommendations:

  • Raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14 years.
  • Ensure no young person aged under 14 years is sentenced to detention, unless the young person is convicted of a serious and violent crime and where they present a serious risk to the community, in which case support in detention must be age-appropriate and trauma-informed.
  • Continue investment in holistic, family-focused, place-based responses for all young people engaging in anti-social behaviour.
  • Resource activity-based programs for children at risk of contact with the justice system, staffed by skilled youth workers and led by Aboriginal Elders and strong role models.