Children's Court New South Wales

Criminal cases for children and young people

If you are over 10 years of age the police can charge you with a criminal offence if they believe you have broken the law.  However, in some situations police can take action under the Young Offenders Act 1997 instead of bringing the matter to court.

If you have been given a Court Attendance Notice this means you will need to come to court.  If you are under 18 years of age at the time of the alleged offence the case will be dealt with in the Children’s Court.  If you are over 18 at the time of the alleged offence the case will be dealt with in the Local Court.  But, if you are old enough to get a driver’s licence and you have been charged with traffic offences only the case will go to the Local Court. 

The Court Attendance Notice is important paperwork.  It will tell you when and where you need to go to court

Should I talk to a lawyer before I come to court?

Yes, it is a good idea to talk to Legal Aid NSW or the Aboriginal Legal Service before you come to court.  If your case is being dealt with in the Children’s Court you can get legal advice and representation at court for free. 

What happens on the first court date?

When you come to court there will be a lawyer on duty to give you legal advice and represent you in court. They will go through the court documents with you and explain your options. It’s important you work with your lawyer.  It’s okay if you don’t understand everything straight away.  If you don’t understand something, ask them to explain.  Lawyers will give you advice, but you will need to make some decisions and tell your lawyer what you want to do.    

At some court locations the Children’s Court Assistance Scheme is also available. This scheme employs trained youth workers who are available to help you on your day of court.  They will know how the court works and will help you meet up with your lawyer at court.  If you need help with other things like accommodation, problems with using drugs and alcohol or getting back into school or training the Children’s Court Assistance Scheme can help put you in touch with other services that can help you too.  

Who can come to court with me?

Your parents or carers are encouraged to come to court with you.  If they can’t come, you can bring another family member such as a grandparent, aunt or uncle, brother or sister or even a close friend that you trust.  You should only bring one or two people to court to support you. 

The court rooms at the Children’s Court are closed to the public and the judicial officer can decide who can come into the court room when your case is dealt with.  Usually, there will only be you and your lawyer, your parents or carers, the prosecutor, the judicial officer and the court staff.  If you want someone else to come into the court room with you, talk to your lawyer. 

What types of orders does the Children’s Court make?

If the judicial officer decides you are not guilty of the charges, the case will be dismissed. 

If the judicial officer decides you are guilty, there are different types of orders that the Court can make depending on the seriousness of the offence and your circumstances, such as whether you have been in trouble with the law before.

Less serious penalties might include: 

  • dismissal with or without a caution
  • caution
  • fine
  • good behaviour bond

More serious penalties might include:

  • probation order
  • community services order
  • control order which means that you will need to stay in a youth detention centre

Diversionary options might also be available to you.

However, some cases are too serious for the Children’s Court to deal with.  These cases may need to be referred to the District Court or even the Supreme Court.   

Your lawyer will speak with you more about your options and court orders and what this means for you.

If you want to learn more about the types of orders that the court can make and the meaning of other words that are used at court you, see the guide, Explaining Legal Terms  to Children (PDF, 460.1 KB).

Last updated:

08 Sep 2023

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