Parliament has passed legislation that raises the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 12 years of age.
The new laws, which come into effect in the second half of next year, are part of the Territory Labor Government’s plan to break the cycle of youth crime through prevention, intervention, and diversion.
This means children aged 11-years-old or younger will not be criminally responsible for their behaviour, and will instead be referred to intervention and family support programs.
NT Police will continue to investigate offences, and victims of crime will continue to receive assistance through financial compensation; and free counselling, home security assessments, and emergency re-secure services.
A number of programs – such as Back on Track, youth diversion camps, and restorative conferencing – are already in place to assist families and children who require additional support and diversion options. Government agencies and service providers will continue to work collaboratively to expand prevention, early intervention and support strategies such as parenting programs and targeted youth outreach.
Interim accommodation will be available for children who cannot be safely returned to their homes in the short term.
The amendments to the Criminal Code Act 1983 were informed by recommendations from the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory, and research that shows that the earlier a child comes into contact with the justice system, the more prolonged their involvement is likely to be.
The Territory Labor Government has committed to review the legislation in two years.
(image source: Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory Facebook page)