20th March 2023

Do you remember the shocking case of two-year-old James Bulger?

1993    James was abducted, tortured and murdered by two young boys. The murder happened  in the UK, and Robert Thompson and Jon Venables were convicted for this atrocious  crime. They were both ten years old when the offence occurred. The high-profile 1993 British case horrified the world, everybody was rightly stunned as to how that could happen, but it did.

James Bulger being abducted by Thompson and Venables.

2017    An eleven-year-old boy was charged with Murdering Patrick Slater in a brawl in Perth.
2020   Solomone Taufeulungaki, a Melbourne Teenager, was murdered by a gang of  eleven, including two thirteen-year-olds. They have all been charged with  Solomone’s murder.

Melbourne Teenager Solomone Taufeulungaki was murdered by children

2021.  Five young people charged with Murder in Sydney, boys aged 13,14,15,13 and a girl aged 15, were apparently the perpetrators, all charged with the murder of  a sixteen-year-old boy.
2023  Media report that a 13-year-old was charged with the murder of his 4-year-old   sibling in Danville, Virginia, US. The 13-year-old was charged with murder after suffocating their sibling and confessing to the crime.
2023 The report (H/S 16/03/23 p.22) of the murder of a twelve-year-old girl by  classmates aged twelve and thirteen who confessed the crime. The victim was stabbed thirty times and dumped in a wooded area.

In this incident, offenders were aged twelve and thirteen and was particularly gruesome and horrific; highlighting the folly of increasing the age of criminal culpability to fourteen.

This murder occurred in Germany, where the age of criminal responsibility has been lifted to fourteen, and neither perpetrator can be charged, raising some very interesting issues for Victoria, currently considering the same regressive move.

  • Will the victim’s family face being confronted by the perpetrators in their community?
  • How will the family cope knowing the murderers were not punished or even tried?
  • What happens if the perpetrators claim innocence? Their matter is never tried so they will be forever tarred with the title murderer? The legal maxim, innocent until proven guilty, may not reconcile with the Court of Public opinion.
  • What happens to the perpetrators? The sheer brutality requires the community to be protected.
  • Clearly, the police would have no power to intervene in any continuing offending, so who does?

We accept that these offences are not an everyday occurrence. Still, they are so brutal when they happen that the community cannot and will not tolerate this decriminalisation as part of being an enlightened society – particularly for the families of those who, as a result, have their loved ones’ lights put out, brutally and permanently.

These random examples are just a few of what happens, and it happens here, so we would be extremely foolish to take the ‘won’t happen here’ path.

It has and will continue to happen; the uncomfortable truth for the social dreamers is that as much as we might wish it, it is inevitable.

This current push in Victoria has the hallmarks of another Social construct that is not well thought out and devoid of an understanding of the consequences and reality.

The number of children aged 10-14 charged in 2007 was just over 10% (of all young people charged), but by 2016, the trend had the figure at 4.3%, according to the Crime Statistics Agency Vic.

Our current strategies are working, although they could be improved upon; why dabble, build on a solid foundation if you want enhanced results.

As the law currently stands in Victoria, a child over ten and under fourteen cannot be charged with a criminal offence unless they knew the alleged act was wrong when they did it. The safeguard of having an independent person/ parent present when the child is interviewed, to our knowledge, has never been challenged.

This proposal is like throwing the baby out with the bath water, inane.

There is no doubt that youth crime has grown overall, but then so has the community, and the Police Cautioning program, its years of success, with its low recidivism rate remaining the cornerstone of this multi-discipline approach in guiding young people away from crime. Still, it is not designed to deal with serious crimes committed by the very young, which has to remain the purview of the Courts.

See https://files.crimestatistics.vic.gov.au/

The following questions we pose for the Government.

  • What mechanisms will be in place to protect the community?
  • What mechanisms will be designed to help victims?
  • What do police do with the child?
  • What protections exist to allay litigation for the victim or the perpetrator?
  • What strategies prevent criminals from exploiting and using children to commit crimes, particularly in the drug scene?

Germany has made a grave mistake with their approach, lifting the age to fourteen; there is no empirical data even to hint that the current system in Victoria of the age of responsibility is an issue.

A home invasion where victims are woken to find perpetrators in their houses is extremely frightening. However, this scare is not mitigated because the perpetrators are subsequently determined to be children. The victims will be just as terrified in some circumstances fearing for their life, irrespective of the age of the offenders.  A list of Home invasions allegedly committed by children under fourteen would be too long to detail here.

The danger increases for the victim if the perpetrators are young, as they do not understand all the consequences of their actions. That is an irrefutable fact.

We have no issue with, and support developing strategies to reduce the incidence of juvenile offending and support any efforts in this area, and equally support the current multi-discipline approach to reduce the likelihood of young people reoffending.

However, we strongly reject the current proposal, which effectively removes the ability of police to give a formal caution where the child, the parents, and professionals can be brought together to assist the child’s direction and also completely ignores the rights of victims and the broader impact on the community. The risk of escalating child criminality is just too great.

We do strongly recommend that a formal and structured police-in-schools program be revisited as a preventative initiative with the added advantage that the assistance for the children can be coordinated with the schools bringing police and the professionals together to achieve better outcomes, focusing on prevention and follow-up of children cautioned, improving the outcomes for children. Such a program also educates children in the pitfalls of being involved in anti-social behaviour in all its forms and encourages their formal education.

Additionally, this program will support School staff confronted by children or parents and create an overall safer school environment for all, to improve educational outcomes overall.

So let’s hope sensible, pragmatic ideas prevail and raising the age of criminal responsibility is not pursued.

Premier – don’t do it.

The CAA would be happy to assist the Government in achieving a workable plan with reduced risks to all.