An Orange solicitor is supporting a move to reduce children aged between 10 and 14 being drawn into the criminal justice system.
Campbell, Paton and Taylor solicitor Tim Dalla said although it’s rare for children to be incarcerated, there are lifelong consequences when it occurs.
Mr Dalla said the younger children appear in court the more likely they will reappear.
“A lot of the current debate is that essentially children between the age if 10 and 14, if they are incarcerated the psychological damage is very great,” he said.
“The longer we can keep people out of a detention centre the better, it should always be a last resort, we have a lot of damaged children coming through the system and a lot of that relates to the upbringing the children have.”
His comments came after University of NSW criminologist Professor Chris Cunneen delivered a paper this week calling for the age of criminal responsibility to be raised from 10 to 14.
Professor Cunneen delivered the paper at the Australian Social Policy Conference at the University of NSW.
He said research showed that children who have contact with the criminal justice system between the ages of 10 and 14 are far more likely to be sentenced to detention in their later years than children who are first supervised at an older age.
“The low age particularly affects Indigenous children, who comprise 87 per cent of 10 and 11-year-olds under custodial and community supervision in Australia,” Professor Cunneen said.
“Many people in the juvenile justice system are unhappy that 10 to 12-year-olds are being locked up but politically there is no appetite for change.
“At the very least, Australia should pass legislation to prevent courts putting young children in detention.”
However, incarcerating children is a last resort and police will often try to avoid matters having to go to courts and even then magistrates and judges look at alternate sentences first.
Mr Dalla Children under the age of 10 are deemed incapable of committing a criminal offence and between the ages of 10 and 14 it is up to the defence to prove the child understood their actions were criminal rather than naughty.
“Essentially what that means is there’s a presumption that they’re too young to be able to form the relevant intention between the age of 10 and 14,” Mr Dalla said.