The literature review examined previous research on the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility (MACR). It explained the current academic, medical and international perspectives on opinions on the age. It also explored the current understanding of public knowledge regarding the MACR. The review indicated a paucity of understanding of public knowledge. One recent study had been conducted on public perceptions (Trevitte & Brown, 2020), however the study was produced by an activist group to raise the age of criminal responsibility, therefore had leading questions. It did however indicate the majority of their participants did not know the MACR. Given the importance of public knowledge and support before suggesting legislative changes (Ellis et. al, 2017), this current study investigated whether the public were aware of the current age of minimum responsibility in Australia and also when informed and asked to consider the age, their perceptions of that age.
More specifically, the research questions that guided this project were:
- Do the public know the age of criminal responsibility?
- What are the public perceptions of a child (aged 10-13 years) ability to understand? (ie. Serious wrongs and the justice system)
- What are the public perceptions of responses to child offending and punishment?
- What are the public perceptions of political influence and change?
- Do these perceptions change according to gender, age category or parental status?
This research was exploratory and utilised a quantitative survey design to explore public perceptions of the minimum age of criminal responsibility. The use of a survey is an efficient method in capturing fear levels of a diverse demographic (Gideon, 2012).