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The criminal responsibility of children and their parents (MACR and Vicarious Parental Responsibility

Children who commit illegal acts have continued to simultaneously fascinate and horrify the media and members of the general public alike. The age of the children involved in reported incidents is also no longer limited to teenagers, but now also includes a much younger cohort including children as young as nine years of age (Pennells, Banks & Lam, 2004a; Strutt, 2004). Currently, Western Australian Law protects young children from prosecution by the criminal justice system. Specifically, Section 29 of the Western Australian Criminal Code (1988) states that children under the age of ten cannot be held responsible for their actions. Children under the age of ten years are said to fall within the age of absolute criminal incapacity and are held doli incapax, meaning they lack the capacity to form the intent to commit criminal acts. An additional area being considered by the current study is the public’s perceptions of the degree of responsibility parents should assume for their children’s behaviour. This area has received relatively little attention by research, however a number of jurisdictions internationally have enacted legislation to allow for the prosecution of parents for their children’s behaviour. Therefore, this research sampled 545 members of the Western Australian general public to investigate their perceptions of the criminal responsibility of children and their parents. It is anticipated these results will have important implications for public policy and justice system approaches to young people who offend.

Funding agency


Project duration

January 2014 - December 2017


  • McCue, J., Drake, D., & Scott. A. (2017). How young is too young? Public attributions of children who commit crime for the minimum age of criminal responsibility.
  • McCue, J. P., Drake, D., & Scott, A. J. (2017) Who’s really to blame? Public attributions of parents and their vicarious criminal and general responsibility.


Dr James McCue
Dr Deirdre Drake
Dr Adrian Scott

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