Members of parliament from all parties are responsible for ensuring children avoid the cycle of crime says child protection body PeakCare Queensland. Their comments come as public hearings into raising the age children can be held responsible for criminal offences begins today. The Queensland parliamentary inquiry is looking at raising the age from 10 to 14.
“Those who made submissions to the committee supporting raising the age of criminal responsibility creates a formidable list whose opinions must not be ignored,” says PeakCare Queensland Executive Director Lindsay Wegener.
“PeakCare joins the chorus calling for change following 76 submissions lodged with the Committee – 75 support raising the age with the position of the 76th unknown. PeakCare’s own submission to the Parliamentary Committee strongly encourages it to look at the overwhelming evidence supporting the age being raised to 14 and the paucity of credible evidence supporting it being retained at 10,” says Lindsay.
As well as being Executive Director of PeakCare Queensland, Lindsay Wegener has previously managed a youth detention centre and served as a director of the state’s youth detention centres.
“At best, the introduction of children at such a vulnerable age to the criminal justice system achieves nothing,” says Lindsay. “At worst, it can do them irreparable harm and rapidly accelerates the likelihood of them graduating to a lifetime of crime.
“Those who have been the victims of offences committed by children expect and deserve much more than a response that simply places children on a conveyor belt into the adult criminal justice system.
“If the Committee recommends the age of criminal responsibility be retained at its current level, it must detail contemporary peer-reviewed evidence used to inform this position as we have not been able to find any,” says Lindsay.
Legal experts such as the Queensland Law Society, advocacy groups such as Amnesty International, specialist psychiatric and medical experts such as the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists as well as researchers and academics such as the Griffith Criminology Institute have made submissions supporting raising the age to 14.
“Very importantly, the list of organisations supporting raising the age includes entities established by the Government itself to provide fearless and frank advice,” says Lindsay. “This includes the Queensland Family and Child Commission, Queensland Human Rights Commission, Queensland Mental Health Commission and Office of the Public Guardian
“This must be regarded as a measure of the integrity of processes used by the Parliament to reach decisions about new laws. When the lives of children and the safety of the community are at stake, we should expect nothing less than the highest level of integrity being applied to the determination of these laws.
“All members of the Parliamentary Committee irrespective of the political party to which they belong share the responsibility to make a decision that is in the best interests of children and young people in Queensland,” says Lindsay.
Lindsay Wegener, Executive Director, 0437 726 192
Mark Jeffery, media, 0419 732 583