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Qld sentencing data could make case for raising the age

Children aged under 14 make up a very small proportion of people sentenced in Queensland, and alternative approaches could be considered to reduce the risk of reoffending, a report says.

Fewer than one in 10 children sentenced in Queensland between 2005 and 2022 were under the age of 14, a Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council report says.

Those under the age of 10 make up 1.1 per cent of children sentenced.

Council chair John Robertson says coming into contact with the criminal justice system at a young age increases the likelihood of reoffending, so there could be a discussion about alternatives.

"'When we consider the life circumstances of many of these younger children, and the type of offending they engage in, it is not surprising that there are questions being asked about the benefits of criminalising children at such a young age," the former Children's Court president said.

Queensland's age of criminal responsibility is 10, and the report showing low numbers of those under 14 are being sentenced comes amid a national push to increase the age to 12 in all states and territories.

However, a draft report last year recommended raising the age to 14 without exception, with the Northern Territory and ACT committing to that and Tasmania planning to lift its minimum age of detention to 14.

Queensland Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman has said she supports a national approach rather than going it alone.

The sentencing report comes as state parliament prepares to debate youth justice laws that have bipartisan support but have been condemned by legal groups, social service providers and experts.

There's concern that making it a criminal offence for children to breach bail conditions and handing them longer sentences will put more kids behind bars for longer, increasing their chances of reoffending.

The council's report says more than half of children aged 10 to 13 who were sentenced were Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, and that the over-representation of Indigenous kids increased among the youngest cohorts.

Some 482 children under the age of 14 were sentenced in 2021/22, with 38 of those younger than 12, which was lower than the annual average of 651 over the previous 17 years.

"Sentenced cases did not return to pre-pandemic levels," the report says.

More than 80 per cent of children under 13 were sentenced for property offences such as unlawful entry, wilful damage and stealing with courts giving reprimands or probation orders in more than half of cases.

Only 2.1 per cent of child sentences involved detention with almost half of those being for burglary or unlawful entry.

'Of the small number of cases involving serious offences sentenced in the higher courts, children under 14 at the time of the offence were most often sentenced for robbery," Mr Robertson said.

"However, this only represented 3.4 per cent of all sentenced robbery cases across Queensland."