By 1News

An advocate has called for New Zealand to raise its age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 12 immediately, and to 14 in the longer term.

That's the age at which a person can be prosecuted for committing a crime.

Amnesty International's Lisa Woods told Breakfast that 10 was comparably young by international standards, and that "it's not appropriate, nor fair, or just that we're holding these children and young people criminally liable like we would for an adult".

"So currently with our 10 and 11-year-olds, they can be held criminally responsible for murder or manslaughter ... any other offending by that age group is already dealt with outside the criminal justice system.

"Since the 70s, that we know of there have been no reported cases (of children that age being charged with murder or manslaughter), so what that does mean is the Government could pretty easily and immediately make a change to 12 in order to remove the risk that anyone in that age group would be inappropriately put through the criminal justice system.

"The medical and psychological evidence is overwhelming that the brains of these children and young people are still developing, particularly the parts of the brain that regulate impulse control, judgement, decision making." 

Following an immediate change to 12, Woods wants the Government to look longer-term and work towards raising the age to 14.

She said the global average age of criminal responsibility is just under 12, adding that states in Australia are looking at raising their age and that there are already countries such as Germany that use the age of 14.

"We're playing catch-up now, so New Zealand really needs to get going with this.

"It's just taking a common sense approach.

"And I think what's important to note here is it's not about no accountability, it's just making sure that the accountability and the interventions we are doing for these children and young people are appropriate."

Woods added that Amnesty International has launched a petition on the subject.

"Clearly, funnelling them into the criminal justice system is not going to be effective, or appropriate, or fair."

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