Sunday, July 10, 2022

Raising the age of criminal responsibility

It seems that I've had a little series lately concerning cases where the minimum age at which one can engage in certain activities is being raised (or where it has been proposed that it be raised). Just last month, there were examples involving competitive figure skating and smoking. I've just come across another, more significant, example.

The age of criminal responsibility in Australia is currently ten, but it seems that there are moves afoot to raise this to 14. (I discovered this via this piece on The Conversation, which is particularly concerned with First Nations issue, but the age thing seems to be universal.)

This is particularly relevant to my teaching, since one of the articles that I use when teaching child enfranchisement is this piece by Joanne Lau. She argues that the age of political responsibility (and thus voting) should be in line with the age of criminal responsibility, mentioning that this is ten in Australia. This doesn't mean that she supports voting rights for ten-year-olds (though some would go even further than that) - the appeal to symmetry could be met either by lowering the voting age or by raising the age of criminal responsibility (or a bit of both).

It seems that Australia is going for the latter, though there is still some asymmetry, assuming that they're not lowering the voting age to 14. (Even lowering it to 16 is controversial.) But this still means that those aged 14-18 are liable to criminal punishment, while having no say over the laws in question.

UPDATE: There's another Conversation article on this topic here.

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