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When a child or young person is involved in criminal proceedings it can be stressful for the whole family, but it can be helpful to understand how the court process works.
Much like the adult courts a child or young person will be given the opportunity to tell the court whether they are guilty or not guilty of the offence. The case may need to be adjourned to allow the lawyer to review the evidence that the police have against the child. If your child pleads guilty, the judicial officer might ask Youth Justice to prepare a background report before a decision is made about the appropriate penalty. If your child pleads not guilty the case will need to be adjourned for a hearing where witnesses are called and the evidence against your child will be tested. Learn more by clicking on the' Orders that the court can make' link on the About criminal cases page.
To assist a child or young person to effectively participate in the court process a lawyer will be made available to provide advice and represent them in court. Legal Aid NSW will provide a lawyer for any child or young person charged with a criminal offence in the Children’s Court. Alternatively, the Aboriginal Legal Service provides legal representation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. Find contacts for Legal Aid NSW and the Aboriginal Legal Service on the Useful links page of the section, Find legal help on this site.
The lawyer is responsible for providing advice to the child or young person and will follow the instructions that the child or young person provides them. Your child is entitled to speak with their lawyer confidentially and they will need to make their own decisions about the court case. The lawyer cannot follow your instructions. The child or young person can tell you about the case or show you documents, but this is up to them.
It is important to help your child get to court on time and to make any appointments with their lawyer. As your child may be at court for several hours it is also good to have the support of a trusted adult to talk things through while they are waiting. Parents and carers are usually allowed to go into the court room as support for the child or young person but this is up to the judicial officer.
Your child’s lawyer might also want to talk to you because the judicial officer might want to know how the family can support your child to stay out of trouble and to help and encourage them to comply with any orders that the court might make. You might also have important information about your child’s background including their health or learning history that will assist the court to understand how best to help your child.
You can also help your child understand the court process. The Explaining legal terms to children guide may help you and your child to learn about the legal terms that are often used at court.
If you are confused about the court process or would like some legal advice for yourself, there are services available to you and those details can be found at our Legal Help page.
Youth Justice supervises and cares for young people in detention who have been sentenced to a control order and sometimes while a young person is waiting for their case to be decided if bail has been refused. Youth Justice also supervises young people in the community who are subject to court orders. If your child is in detention you can contact Youth Justice on 1300 135 330.
08 May 2023
We acknowledge the traditional owners and custodians of the land on which we work and we pay respect to the Elders, past, present and future.