Children in child protection are more likely to become stuck in the youth justice system, particularly girls and Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders, according to the state's leading legal aid service.
The Tasmanian Legal Aid reviewed its files from 2007 to 2020 and found that 10 per cent of kids in child protection had files with youth justice, many aged under 14, and they had twice as many youth justice files than kids not in protection.
It is now calling for the age of criminal responsibility to be raised from 10 to 14, and among other things, wants to see increased diversion options, police as a last resort for kids in care, and an in-school lawyer program.
Tasmania's Commissioner for Children and Youth Leanne McLean said she fully supports TLA's suggestions, which mirror the youth justice reforms and early preventative interventions that she has long called for.
"TLA's analysis demonstrates that it is the most vulnerable who are coming into contact with the law over and over again. In Tasmania, children as young as 10 can be arrested - they can even be incarcerated," she said.
"Reducing the harmful contact children and young people have with the youth justice system can only be addressed with a more nuanced and coordinated response from all the services involved in supporting children and young people.
"One part of this is addressing the social determinants that lead children and young people into the youth justice system, such as trauma, poverty, family violence, disability and mental health."
Tasmania Legal Aid Director Vincenzo Caltabiano said 41 per cent of all children aged under 14 on their files who were charged with offending were "crossover children", which are those in child protection with youth justice files.
The TLA report Children First found that these kids have an average of six youth justice files, when compared to other kids in the system, and that 15 per cent of all crossover kids were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander.
Tasmanian Aboriginal Legal Service principal lawyer Hannah Phillips said the organisation was very supportive of raising the age of criminal responsibility.
She said many of the kids aged under 14 were being criminalised for crimes they committed for social reasons, for example stealing food or other items to survive.
"Kids who are part of the child safety system who are charged with having dangerous articles...Why would a child under 14 need to have something to protect themselves? That tells me that there is something very wrong with the support they are being given," Ms Phillips said.
"Raising the age doesn't mean that those [criminal] issues are't being addressed. There can be other diversions in place to educate and address those behaviours."
Ms Phillips said having increased diversion options for these kids is also favoured.
"What I would like to see is more options to address these behavioral issues that aren't related to police or court. For example, particularly for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island kids, having camps or opportunities for them to have good role models, to learn and have connection to land and culture so that they can see the bigger picture, and to also get that sense of belonging which they don't have potentially in their family environment."