9News understands the Andrews cabinet signed off on the change last night, with the possibility to raise the age to 14 by 2027.
But the change has since been slammed by medical authorities, legal experts and Indigenous organisations, who say the move to 12 doesn’t go far enough.
Lifting the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14 is a “vital measure” needed to protect the health and well-being of children, according to Australia’s medical colleges.
The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) said the move to only raise it to 12 was “deeply concerning”.
“Children under 14 years may not have the level of maturity and cognitive function to be considered criminally responsible,” RACP president and paediatrician Dr Jacqueline Small said.
“Raising the age of criminal responsibility to 14 years is critical to protecting the health and wellbeing of children and young people at risk of incarceration, especially Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and children with developmental disabilities.”
A parliamentary inquiry handed down in 2022 recommended that the minimum age of criminal responsibility be raised to 14 in Victoria without exception.
Premier Daniel Andrews flagged back in February that he planned to bring legislation before parliament to raise the age.
It will bring Victoria in line with the Northern Territory and the ACT, which have both committed to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility above 10 years.
Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service chief executive Nerita Waight said the move to 12 was “disappointing”.
“The age of criminal responsibility should be at least 14, with no exceptions,” she said.
“The minimum age of detention should be 16.
“It’s ultimately disappointing that the government didn’t have the courage to follow expert advice and raise the age to 14.”