Minimum Ages of Criminal Responsibility in Oceania

As part of CRIN's policy work on the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR), we monitor these ages around the world. This page provides detailed information on MACRs in Oceania.

If you are aware of any inaccuracies in this information or reforms underway to amend the relevant laws, please contact us at info@crin.org

Australia

Commonwealth. 

A child under the age of 10 cannot be held criminally liable for an offence against the law of the Commonwealth. A child older than 10 but younger than 14 can only be held criminally responsible if “the child knows that his or her conduct is wrong”, the burden of proof for which is on the prosecution. [Crimes Act 1914, Section 4M; Criminal Code Act 1995, Division 7.1]

Australian Capital Territory.

No person can be held criminally responsible for an offence allegedly committed while under the age of 10. A child aged older than 10 but younger than 14 can only be held criminally responsible where the prosecution can demonstrate that the child knows the relevant conduct is wrong. [Criminal Code, Sections 25 and 26]

New South Wales.

No child under the age of 10 can be held criminally responsible for an offence. Courts have discretion as to whether to hold children aged 10 to 14 criminally responsible. [Children (Criminal Proceedings) Act 1987, Section 5; Australian Institute of Criminology “The Age of Criminal Responsibility”, common law doli incapax].

Northern Territory.

No person can be held criminally responsible for an act, omission or event allegedly committed while he or she was under the age of 10. A person under the age of 14 is excused of criminal responsibility for an act, omission or event unless it is proved that at the time he or she had capacity to know that he or she ought not to do the act, make the omission or cause the event. [Criminal Code Act, Section 38(1) and (2)]

Queensland.

A child under the age of 10 cannot be held criminally responsible for any act or omission. A person older than 10 but younger than 14 can only be held criminally responsible for an act or omission if he or she had capacity to know that he or she ought not to do the act or make the omission. [Queensland Criminal Code, Section 29(1) and (2)]

South Australia.

A child under the age of 10 is considered incapable of committing a criminal offence. The court has discretion as to whether to hold children aged 10 to 14 criminally responsible. [Young Offenders Act 1993, Section 5; Australian Institute of Criminology, “The Age of Criminal Responsibility”, common law doli incapax]

Tasmania.

No child can be held criminally responsible for an act taken or omission made while under the age of 10. No child older than 10, but younger than 14 can be held criminally responsible unless it is proved that he or she had sufficient capacity to know that the act or omission was one that he or she ought not to do or make. [Criminal Code Act, Section 18(1) and (2)]

Victoria.

A child under the age of 10 is considered incapable of committing a criminal offence. The court has discretion as to whether to hold children aged 10 to 14 criminally responsible. [Children, Youth and Families Act 2005, Section 344; Australian Institute of Criminology, “The Age of Criminal Responsibility”, common law doli incapax]

Western Australia.

A person under the age of 10 cannot be held criminally liable for any act or omission. A person aged 10 to 14 cannot be held criminally responsible for an act or omission unless it is proved at the time of the act or making the omission, he or she had capacity to know that he or she ought not to do the act or make the omission. [Criminal Code Act Compilation Act 1913, Section 29]

Fiji.

No one can be held criminally responsible for any act or omission committed while under the age of 10. Children older than 10 but younger than 14 at the time of allegedly committing an offence can only be held criminally responsible if he or she knew that the conduct was wrong” In establishing whether the child knew the conduct to be wrong, the burden of proof is on the prosecution. A male person under the age of 12 is presumed incapable of having carnal knowledge, a provision which prevents the prosecution of younger boys for certain sexual offences. [Crimes Decree 2009, Sections 26 and 27]

Kiribati.

No person under the age of 10 can be held criminally responsible. A person between the ages of 10 and 14 can only be held criminally responsible for an act or omission where he or she “had capacity to know that he ought not to do the act or make the omission.” A male person under the age of 12 is considered incapable of having sexual intercourse, a provision which prevents the prosecution of younger boys for certain sexual offences. [Penal Code, Section 14]

Marshall Islands.

No child under the age of 10 is considered capable of committing a crime under national law, and children between the ages of 10 and 14 are presumed incapable of committing crimes except in relation to the offences of murder and rape where the presumption is rebuttable. However, there is no minimum age limit for the bringing disciplinary proceedings against a person under the age of 18. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has been critical of this provision, noting that it amounts to an absence of a minimum age of criminal responsibility. [Criminal Code, Section 107; CRC/C/MHL/CO/2, para. 70]

Federated States of Micronesia

Federal law.

A person under the age of 18 who is treated as a “delinquent child” - any person under the age of 18 accused of violating a Trust Territory or district law – can be sentenced to confinement. There is no lower age limit for this form of deprivation of liberty.

A child can be tried as an adult from the age of 16 if the court is of the opinion that his or her physical and mental maturity so justifies. [FSMC, Title 12, Section 1101, 1102 and 1105]

Chuuk.

Children under the age of 10 are conclusively presumed to be incapable of committing any crime. A child aged 10 to 14 is presumed incapable of committing any crime, though this presumption can be rebutted. Proceedings against a “delinquent child” can be brought against any person under the age of 18. This provision permits confinement sentences for children that amount to deprivation of liberty regardless of age. [Chuuk State Law 6-66, Section 307]

Kosrae.

Children can be tried as adults from the age of 16 where the court finds that the physical and mental maturity of the child justify this measure. Children can be treated as “delinquents” when they violate state or national law, and can be subject to sentences amounting to deprivation of liberty. [Kosrae State Code, Sections 6.4802 and 6.4806]

Pohnpei.

At the time of writing, insufficient information about the criminal law was available to establish the minimum age of criminal responsibility in Pohnpei. Please contact CRIN at info@crin.org if you have any information on this issue.

Yap.

Any child under the age of 18 can be treated as a “delinquent child” if he or she has violated a state or federal law, with the exception of traffic laws. [Yap State Code, Section 1203; YSL2-86, Section 3]

Nauru.

A person under the age of 10 cannot be held criminally responsible for any act or omission. A person aged under the age of 14 can only be held criminally responsible where it can be proved that he or she had capacity to know that he or she “ought not to do the act or make the omission”. [Queensland Criminal Code 1899 (as amended), Section 29(1) and (2)]

New Zealand.

No person can be convicted of an offence in relation to an act or omission committed while under the age of 10. A child older than 10 but younger than 14 can only be convicted of an offence where he or she knew that the act or omission was wrong or that it was contrary to law.

The Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act sets further limits on when a person under the age of 18 can be tried and convicted:

  • Children aged 10 or 11 can only be prosecuted for murder or manslaughter and can be tried as if they were a “young person” (i.e. aged 14 to 16 inclusive).

  • Children aged 12 or 13 can be held criminally responsible for offences for which the maximum penalty is or includes imprisonment for life or where the maximum penalty is 10 years' imprisonment or more.

[Crimes Act 1961, Sections 21(1) and 21(2); Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act, Section 272]

Palau.

No one can be held criminally responsible for an offence allegedly committed while under the age of 10. Children between the ages of 10 and 14 can only be held criminally responsible for murder or rape. [Palau National Code, 17.106]

Papua New Guinea.

No one can be held criminally responsible for an act or omission committed while under the age of seven. A child older than 10 but younger than 14 can only be held criminally responsible if he or she had the capacity to know that he ought not to do the relevant act or make the relevant omission. [Criminal Code, Sections 30(1) and (2)]

Samoa.

No person can be held criminally responsible for an act or omission carried out while under the age of 10. A child older than 10 but younger than 12 at the time of carrying out an alleged offence can only be found criminally responsible where he or she “knew the act or omission was morally wrong, or that it was contrary to law.” [Crimes Act 2013, Section 12(1) and (2)]

Solomon Islands.

No person under the age of 8 can beheld criminally responsible for an act or omission. A child older than 8 but younger that 12 can only be held criminally responsible where “[he or she] had capacity to know that he ought not to do the act or make the omission.”

However, the Juvenile Offender Act permits criminal justice measures, including deprivation of liberty, to be applied without a lower age limit. [Penal Code, Section 14(1) and (2); Juvenile Offenders Act, Sections 2 and 16(i)-(j)]

Tonga.

No person can be held criminally responsible for an act carried out while under the age of seven. A child aged seven to 12 can only be held criminally responsible where the Court or jury is of the opinion that he or she has attained “sufficient maturity of understanding to be aware of the nature and consequences of his conduct in regard to the act of which he is accused.” [Criminal Offences Act (as amended), Section 16(1) and (2)]

Tuvalu.

A child under the age of 10 cannot be criminally responsible for any act or omission and a child under 14 cannot be held criminally responsible unless it is proved that he or she knew that at the time “[he or she] ought not to do the act or make the omission”. [Penal Code, Sections 14(1) and (2)]

Vanuatu.

No person can be held criminally responsible for an offence allegedly committed while under the age of 10. A child older than 10 but younger than 14 is presumed incapable of committing a criminal offence unless “[he or she] was able to distinguish between right and wrong and .. did so with respect to the offence with which [he or she] is charged.” A male person under the age of 12 is considered incapable of having sexual intercourse, a provision which prevents the prosecution of younger boys for certain sexual offences. [Penal Code, Sections 14(3) and 17(1)]