Advocacy for Inclusion (AFI) incorporating People with Disabilities ACT (PWDACT) completed a response to the ACT Government’s Raising the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility Discussion Paper. The ACT Government has committed to raising the age of criminal responsibility from the current minimum of 10 years of age. Through the Discussion Paper, the ACT Government invited the community to provide views and recommendations of what needs to be considered and how best to support raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility.
AFI has strongly welcomed and supported the ACT Government’s commitment to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility.
With children and young people experiencing ‘appallingly high’ prevalence of mental health disorders and cognitive disabilities within youth justice systems, it is critical that considerations of disability and mental health underpin and frame all levels of this discussion.
Our response focuses on an alternative model to the current youth justice system, and the specific considerations which must be made to ensure disability need is adequately recognised and supported. AFI emphasises the importance of early support in the community and recognise the significant opportunities which are provided to better identify and respond to the needs of children at risk of contact with the youth justice system. We also highlight important considerations which must not be overlooked in the development of an alternative model, chiefly regarding mandatory engagement and specific accommodation options, to successfully meet the needs of this cohort.
Raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility in the ACT is a significant consideration for children and young people with disability and mental ill health. It is critical that consideration is given to disability perspectives and that accessibility, inclusion and the human rights of children with disability is prioritised in the development of an alternative approach.