Police arrest a teenage boy at a home. Picture: NSW police
Police arrest a teenage boy at a home. Picture: NSW police

Teen criminals may get free pass to break the law

Teenage delinquents would get a free pass to break the law under a radical being considered by the nation's top law makers.

Federal Attorney-General Christian Porter and his state colleagues signed off on a 12-month investigation with a view to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 years to as high as 16.

It would extend the ban on prosecuting kids under 10 because they do not have a fully developed understanding between right and wrong so are considered incapable of committing a crime.

There were 277 boys and 33 girls aged between 10 and 17 locked up in juvenile justice detention in NSW in May.

A NSW parliamentary committee call for the Berejiklian government to review state's age of criminal responsibility was used to argue for the national inquiry.

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The proposal cited New Zealand where 14 was the minimum age for a young person to face prosecution for most crimes except serious offences where the age ranged from 12 to 13.

The Daily Telegraph understands the Attorneys-General also discussed the possibility of raising the age to 16 depending on the severity of the crime.

Human rights groups have been pushing for the age to be raised arguing that emerging research about adolescent brain development shows kids don't have a fully developed ability to reason.

They also claim that the earlier someone enters the justice system the more likely they were to become trapped in a life of crime.

In all Australian states to prosecute kids aged up to 14 it must first be successfully argued that the culprit understood their actions were seriously wrong in the criminal sense and not merely naughty.

NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman confirmed he agreed to the review and said he would consider its findings.

NSW Children's Court president Peter Johnstone told the state inquiry he was "very supportive" of raising the age of criminal responsibility to 12 and ban putting kids in jail until they were 14.

But he said there must be a proper processes in place to deal with those kids who have committed what would otherwise be considered a crime that deals with their "criminogenic tendencies".

"Otherwise they are only going to continue to do what they are doing, come back at the age of 13 and commit worse crimes.

"I am not aware of any formalised process for dealing with children under the age of 10. There is not one.

"I would raise the age for criminal responsibility to 12, but I would make sure that there is a system behind that which enables us to work with those children to address their problems."