One of the key recommendations from the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory was that the age of criminal responsibility in Australia, the age in which someone can be charged with a criminal offence be raised from 10 to 12. It was claimed that this would bring Australia “in line with recommended international standards” and stop young children entering the youth justice system.
The human rights lobby in Australia has seized on this recommendation and have already began to campaign on it. In fact, they want our governments to go further a raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14. They claim this is also needed because 70 per cent of children who enter the youth justice system are indigenous.
Wayne Muir who is Co-Chair of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services was of the belief that “Children are being labelled criminals when all of our efforts should be focussed on keeping children safe and supported within their communities”.
Dr Kali Hayward who is President of the Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association “The continued practice of removing children from their families and communities creates new intergenerational trauma and continues the cycle of social disadvantage, with subsequent significant negative health impacts”.
Even the United Nations has seen fit to criticise Australia on this issue with UN experts on racism asking Australia to please explain why it is “arresting 10 year olds in the street”. Of course they believe their must be a racial element for holding criminals accountable for their actions.
The claim is these youth offenders become trapped by entering youth detention so you and sets them up for a life of crime where they are in and out of the justice system. People will notice that the focus of all these statements on the rights of criminals, not a word as been said about their victims. These youth offenders are in the criminal justice system because they have committed violent offences against members of the public.
Take for example the poster boy for the Royal Commission Dylan Voller whose treatment at the Don Dale dentition centre was the catalyst for the commission being established. He had committed over 50 crimes within a five-year period including bashing a victim into unconsciousness with a mop handle and attempting to run over a police officer while he was high on ice. He was hardly thrown in prison for stealing a pack of gum.
Just because an offender is young does not mean that they are not capable of horrific crimes which the public still deserves to be protected from and the victims of such crimes should be entitled to see justice prevail. Some of the most heinous crimes around the world have been committed by people under the age of 14.
In Alberta, Canada in 2006 three members of the Richardson family were murdered and the 12-year old daughter of the family was discovered to have planned and committed the murders along with her 23-year-old boyfriend. Because she was a minor she was only sentenced to 10 years in person despite being found guilty of first degree murder. Many people would believe a person who murders her parents and brother should never be released.
The United Kingdom was shocked when 2-year-old James Bludger was kidnapped at a shopping centre and tortured and murdered by two 10-year-old boys, Robert Thompson and Jon Venables in 1993. After being found guilty of the murder the pair were sentenced to prison until they were 18. Since his release at 18 Venables has been returned to prison twice for child pornography offences and psychologists have concluded he cannot be rehabilitated. Evil certainly has no minimum age.
These are the types of people the human rights lobby believe should not be held criminally responsible. One wonders if they would feel differently if it was them or members of their family who was a victim of one of these child criminals? Sometimes people are just evil and cannot be rehabilitated no matter how geared the criminal justice system is to such a goal.
The safety of the public from such violent offenders should always be paramount, no matter what their age is. This push from the human rights lobby would have the effect of allowing young criminals to run rampant in our communities with no chance of recourse for victims. We should fiercely resist this recommendation from the Royal Commission which should have never been called in the first place. The human rights of victims and the public should be of concern for those who claim to believe in human rights.