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Victoria will become the first Australian state to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 12 as long-awaited legislation arrives.

Premier Jacinta Allan announced the youth justice bill would be introduced to state parliament on Tuesday, telling reporters, “ten and 11-year-olds don’t belong in the criminal justice system … they belong in school.”

In a press conference announcement, Victorian attorney-general Jaclyn Symes said that there will still be occasions where police will have to come into contact with 10 or 11-year-olds.

“There will not be the right of arrest because there will not be the ability to charge a child with a crime who is 10 and 11,” Symes said.

Victorian Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes

Victorian Attorney-General Jaclyn SymesCredit: Jason South

But she continued that there “will be the ability to use limited force”, listing the following examples: “take the child by the arm, support the child into a vehicle in order to protect them [and] protect the community, to bring them back and make sure that the right services can be provided.”

“We want to ensure that we have the legislative framework to enable them to act in their best interest and to reduce the risk of them hurting themselves or indeed hurting another person.”

The Allen government will wait until 2027 to raise the age of responsibility to 14 – as demanded by Indigenous, legal and medical groups. The second stage of reforms will include exclusions for children accused of more serious crimes, yet to be determined.

The phase is conditional on the launch of an alternative service model to deal with misbehaving 12- and 13-year-olds. It will also include yet-to-be-determined exceptions for some serious offences, such as terrorism.

Currently, children as young as 10 can be arrested, charged, held on remand and jailed in juvenile detention. But the government’s move to raise the age to 12, and its pledge to raise it again to 14 by 2027 aims to bring the state in line with international norms, evidence about child development and human rights standards.

With AAP

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