Thursday, 23 July 2020

Law Society signs open letter calling on ACT Government to stop imprisoning children

The ACT Law Society has joined with a collective of service delivery, human rights, legal, and representative organisations to call on the ACT Government to raise the age of criminal responsibility in the territory.

An open letter, coordinated by Aboriginal-led justice organisation Change the Record, has been sent to ACT ministers today.

“The Law Society believes that it is simply unacceptable to put children in prison,” said President of the ACT Law Society Chris Donohue. “Australians should be ashamed of the number of children held in prisons around the country, and especially of the extraordinary over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in detention.

“The Law Society applauds recent reductions in the rate of incarceration for Aboriginal children in our territory, but there is still a long way to go. In the ACT, Aboriginal children are still being imprisoned at eight times the rate of non-Indigenous children.

“Putting vulnerable children in a prison environment causes life-long harm, and drives recidivism rates up.

“The damaging effects of incarceration on young people, especially Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, and the extensive negative social ramifications of early contact with the criminal justice system, are well-known.

“We strongly support raising the age of minimum criminal responsibility from 10 years old to 14 years old, and we are urging the ACT Government to take urgent action locally to introduce legislative changes to this effect.

“This issue is on the agenda of the Council of Attorney-Generals meeting on 27 July, but the ACT has been a leader on social issues before, and we are asking our government to lead once again.

“We don’t have to wait for the other states and territories to do the right thing. The ACT Government could take action now, raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14, and keep our children out of prison.”

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