Sydney Office

Level 35
201 Elizabeth Street
Sydney NSW 2000

Melbourne Office

Level 4
99 William Street
Melbourne VIC 3000

Brisbane Office

Level 5
231 North Quay
Brisbane QLD 4000

Canberra Office

Level 5
1 Farrell Place
Canberra ACT 2601

Armstrong Legal Logo

Privacy Policy  |  Terms & Conditions

Copyright © 2017 Armstrong Legal. All rights reserved.

Phone 1300 168 676

Children Being Held Responsible for Crimes


A 12 year old boy has been charged in relation to the stabbing of a 10 year old but how criminally responsible can a child be?

While it seems like a cut and dry issue, the level of criminal responsibility that can be placed on a child varies. Matters involving children are far more complicated than that of an adult. In New South Wales there is a principal called Doli Incapax. Colloquially known as Doli.

Doli is effectively a sliding scale of criminal responsibility with a rebuttable presumption. The law states that a child under 10 cannot be criminally liable for an offence. The presumption for children under 10 is not rebuttable. The presumption of responsibility slowly increases as a child nears 14 and it is the onus of the Police or DPP to prove the child’s criminal liability.

Late last year the High Court confirmed this presumption and its specificity in RP v The Queen. The High Court made plain the distinction between the child’s action and their knowledge, both of which are needed to rebut the presumption that the child is not liable.

It must not only be proved that the actions that constituted an offence occured, but also that the child knew what they were doing was seriously and morally wrong, rather than merely naughty. The High Court was of the view that the presumption needed to be rebutted with specific evidence of a child’s knowledge and understanding.

At this stage it’s not apparent whether or not the police will be able to rebut the Doli presumption that they face in this matter, however we know it’ll be one to watch.

Image Credit – Jirkaejc © 123RF.com

Written by Monique Welch on July 20, 2017

Monique's friendly and compassionate approach will set you at ease from your first contact with Armstrong Legal. She exhibits maturity and empathy when assisting clients through, what is often, a stressful and overwhelming experience. View Monique's profile


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Contact Armstrong Legal:
Sydney: (02) 9261 4555
Melbourne: (03) 9620 2777
Brisbane: (07) 3229 4448
Canberra: (02) 6288 1100