In New South Wales, the Children’s Court takes charge of cases involving individuals under 18 years old who are accused of committing crimes. Legal proceedings for young individuals differ from those for adults in various aspects. The criminal division of the Children’s Court deals with a range of matters, including traffic violations, minor offences, bail applications, pleas, and contested hearings. Furthermore, the court's jurisdiction extends to juvenile domestic violence, care and protection cases, and compulsory schooling matters. This overview focuses on how the criminal division of the Children’s Court operates. When juveniles are sentenced for criminal acts, the court places a stronger emphasis on rehabilitation compared to the approach taken with adults. This approach acknowledges that young individuals make mistakes and should be given opportunities to learn. However, in cases where other factors hold more weight in sentencing considerations – for instance, if the offence is exceptionally serious or the offender has a history of repeat misconduct – the Children’s Court has the authority to impose significant penalties, including periods of youth detention.
When a child is charged with a criminal offence, the police initiate the legal process by filing a court attendance notice at the children’s court. If the young individual has been granted bail, they are required to appear in court on the specified date mentioned in the notice, typically a few weeks after the charges are laid. If the young person has been detained by the police, the case is expedited to the court as soon as possible. This allows them to either seek bail or enter a guilty plea to address the charges promptly.
If a plea of not guilty is entered, the proceedings are adjourned to give the police time to prepare and provide a ‘brief of evidence.’ If the young individual maintains their not guilty plea after reviewing the evidence, the court schedules an adjournment for a defended hearing.
If the young person is found not guilty during the hearing, the charges against them are dismissed. However, if they are found guilty, the Magistrate will impose a sentence. In some cases, the Children’s Court may defer a case to obtain reports or evaluate the defendant for appropriate programs before determining the appropriate sentence.
When a child or young person is found guilty, the Children’s Court is responsible for determining an appropriate sentence. The court has a range of penalties at its disposal, which are tailored to the seriousness of the offence and the individual circumstances of the young person, including their prior criminal history.
The Children’s Court can impose the following types of orders on a young person:
The Children’s Court handles traffic offences involving defendants who are below the licensable age, in addition to cases related to other criminal offences. Any other traffic offences allegedly committed by individuals under 18 years of age are within the jurisdiction of the Local Court.
The Children’s Court does not have the authority to handle strict indictable offences or cases being prosecuted on indictment. In such instances, a committal procedure is conducted by the Children’s Court to evaluate the available evidence. If satisfied with the evidence supporting a verdict of guilt, the case is referred to the District Court or, in certain situations, to the Supreme Court for further proceedings.
After undergoing trial and/or sentencing in the Children’s Court, a young person has the right to appeal the verdict, the sentence, or both to the District Court. The appeal process must be initiated within 28 days of the issuance of the order.
If you are in need of legal advice or representation for any legal issue, please feel free to reach out to us at KPT Defence Lawyers. We are here to assist you.
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