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The Children’s Court deals with criminal offences where the defendant was under 18 years of age at the time of the alleged offence.
In its criminal jurisdiction the Children’s Court deals with criminal cases, some traffic cases, applications relating to criminal cases such as applications for forensic procedures and parole cases.
When a child or young person is charged by police with an offence they are provided with a Court Attendance Notice indicating the details of the offence, the location, the date and time the case will be listed before the Children’s Court. Usually the case is given a date in about three weeks. However, if the police have refused bail the case will be listed as soon as possible, usually the same or the next day.
On the first day the child or young person will have the opportunity to obtain legal advice about their case. If after obtaining legal advice the child or young person enters a plea of guilty the judicial officer may impose a penalty on the same day. However, sometimes the judicial officer will adjourn the case to obtain a background report from Youth Justice to assist them in determining the most appropriate penalty.
If a plea of not guilty is entered, the case will be adjourned for the police to prepare and serve what is called a ‘brief of evidence’. This will include statements from witnesses and other material the police are going to rely on to prove that the offence has been committed by the child or young person.
If, after the evidence is served, the young person maintains his or her plea of not guilty, the court will adjourn the matter for a defended hearing where witnesses will give evidence and the judicial officer will make a decision whether the child or young person is guilty or not guilty of the alleged offence.
The Children (Criminal Proceedings) Act 1987 sets out some principles that the Children’s Court must consider when dealing with children and young people who are charged with a crime. These principles include:
While the court process for dealing with cases is very similar to the process for adult defendants there are some differences.
Importantly, the court is closed to the general public and the judicial officer can exclude people from the courtroom if they are not directly involved in the case. However, most of the time the child or young person’s parents or carers will be allowed to be present when the case is dealt with.
The proceedings are also conducted with less formality than the adult courts. Prosecutors and lawyers will remain seated when they speak and police witnesses do not wear uniforms when attending court.
Additionally, information that is likely to identify a child involved in the proceedings cannot be published or broadcast. This could include posting information about the case on social media.
If the judicial officer determines that the child or young person is not guilty of the offence the case will be dismissed.
If the judicial officer determines that the child or young person is guilty there are different types of penalties that can be imposed depending on the seriousness of the offence and the circumstances of the child or young person including any previous criminal record.
The types of orders that the Children’s Court can impose when a child or young person is found guilty of an offence are:
The Children’s Court deals with traffic offences where the defendant is not old enough to hold a driver’s licence or permit, or where the Children’s Court is dealing with other related criminal offences. All other traffic offences alleged to have been committed by persons under the age of 18 years are dealt with in the Local Court.
Most cases will be finalised in the Children’s Court. However, some offences are considered to be so serious that the processes and penalties available in the Children’s Court are not adequate. In these cases, the Children’s Court will conduct a committal proceeding whereby it will consider the evidence available and will refer the case to the District Court, or in some cases, the Supreme Court, if satisfied that there is a reasonable prospect that a reasonable jury, properly instructed, would convict the accused person.
A party who is not satisfied with the order of the Children’s Court, may appeal to the District Court against the order. Legal assistance should be sought before lodging an appeal. Staff at the Children’s Court cannot give legal advice.
08 May 2023
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