In the lead up to Child Protection Week 2016, PeakCare Members were urged to display and disseminate this flyer . Soon after Child Protection Week ended, PeakCare applauded the State Government’s announcement made on 7 September 2016 that legislation would be introduced to end the practice of treating 17-year olds as adults in Queensland’s justice system. While welcoming the news that the Government was aiming to have all 17-year olds removed from adult prisons within 12 months, in a blog posted by PeakCare’s Lindsay Wegener, we continued to raise our concerns about the “plethora of complex issues warranting examination – the age at which children can be assessed as ‘criminally responsible’ and the application of the doli incapax principle that allows children as young as 10 to be held, on remand or sentence, in a youth detention centre; the lengthy periods of detaining Queensland children on remand (the longest in the country); and the appalling over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people within the youth justice system”.
Earlier this week, the Queensland Family and Child Commission (QFCC) posted this discussion paper, The minimum age of criminal responsibility in Queensland on its website. The paper proposes that the minimum age for criminal responsibility be increased from 10 to 12 years of age; the subsequent cessation of practices that allow children aged 10 to 12 years of age to be sentenced to detention, and the introduction of mandatory youth justice conferences for children in this age group.
As a child protection peak body, PeakCare has a strong interest in the intersection between child protection and youth justice. This relates especially to the large numbers of young people encountering the youth justice system who have been or are also currently involved with the child protection system. PeakCare argues that the vast majority of parents would reasonably argue that there are far better options for the treatment of their 10 to 12 year old children who may have been involved in offending behaviours than incarceration within a youth detention centre. When children are in the care of the State, is the State not also obliged to act as a reasonable parent would in arguing for a better alternative than detention for the children in its care?