Greens bid to raise Qld criminal age to 14

Greens MP Michael Berkman has moved a bill to raise the age of criminal responsibility in Qld.
Greens MP Michael Berkman has moved a bill to raise the age of criminal responsibility in Qld.

Greens MP Michael Berkman has moved a bill to raise the age of criminal responsibility in Queensland to 14 in line with international jurisdictions.

The age of criminal responsibility in the state is currently 10 years like it is in all other jurisdictions in Australia.

Mr Berkman's private member's bill would raise the age by four years in Queensland.

"Kids aged ten to 13, their brains haven't fully developed, they don't understand consequences in the same way adults do," he said.

"So criminalising them like adults simply doesn't work, and what's more, we know that early contact with the criminal legal system dramatically increases the likelihood that they will reoffend."

Mr Berkman said the Queensland Labor government decision not to raise the age was out of step with experts.

Jailing children under the age of 14 is not in line with the state's human right obligations, he said.

As a national discussion on raising the age had been paused in March, the Greens MP said, Queensland should go it alone.

"These are Queensland laws that need to change, and now is the time to change them," he said.

Mr Berkman said the government should instead fund culturally appropriate interventions for children.

The bill is not expected to receive support from Labor or Liberal National Party MPs.

State parliament passed controversial laws in April allowing courts to fit teen offenders with GPS trackers and remove the presumption of bail for those caught committing serious offences while on bail.

The laws target about 400 repeat offenders, most of whom are Indigenous and allegedly responsible for almost half of all youth crime in the state.

The Greens slammed those laws as a knee-jerk reaction to a problem and called it a Labor-LNP unity ticket for "locking children up".

Change the Record co-chair Cheryl Axleby warned at the time that the laws would drive more Indigenous kids into police and prison cells.

Ms Axleby said the state government was scapegoating children to fix a problem instead of using evidence-based policies and culturally-appropriate programs.

She said Indigenous children were already 27 times more likely than non-Indigenous children to be imprisoned in Queensland.

"While the Queensland government has said it's committed to Closing the Gap to reduce this horrifying disparity, actions speak louder than words, and these law changes will hit Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids the hardest," Ms Axleby said at the time.

"If governments are genuinely committed to closing the gap and ending black deaths in custody, then it starts with keeping our kids out of prison."

Australian Associated Press