Criminal Matters in the Childrens Court
Commencement of proceedings
Criminal proceedings against a child or young person for a criminal offence commence either by a summons to attend the Childrens Court or by police charges being laid. Where the police have a child or young person in custody and lay charges, the police will notify a person with parental responsibility for the child or young person about the:
- child or young person’s location, and
- time and place the child or young person will be brought before the Childrens Court.
If a matter involving a child or young person is not finalised on the first occasion, an application for bail may be made. If bail is opposed the Magistrate will determine whether bail should be granted.
If the Magistrate refuses the child or young person bail, the magistrate will adjourn the matter for a period no longer than 7 days.
Generally, the Magistrate will adjourn a matter to enable the child or young person to obtain legal advice.
Plea of guilty
A guilty plea may be entered at any time the matter is before the Court. A reduction in sentence may apply if the child or young person enters an early guilty plea.
In most matters, the Court will sentence the child or young person on the day they plead guilty.
Parent or Guardian must attend
A parent or guardian of a child or young person is required to attend court whenever the child or young person is required to attend court. Where the Court has served a parent or guardian with a notice concerning the proceeding against their child, and no parent or guardian attends, the Court may issue a warrant requiring the police to bring a parent or guardian before the Court.
Plea of not guilty
If a child or young person pleads not guilty to an offence, the Magistrate will adjourn the matter to another date for a case management hearing.
At the case management hearing the parties will be given directions to ensure the matter is ready to proceed for hearing.
The Magistrate will then list the matter for hearing on another date. On the day of the hearing, the legal representative of the child or young person will need to ensure that evidence they will be relying on to support the child or young person’s defence is present.
At the hearing
At the hearing, the prosecution will present the evidence it has to establish that the child or young person committed the offence. Once the prosecution has finished presenting its evidence, the child or young person will have the opportunity to present their case.
Once the prosecution and defence have presented their evidence the prosecution and the defence have the opportunity to make submissions to the Court as to whether the prosecution has proved the child or young person’s guilt. The prosecution must establish the child or young person’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
Where the Magistrate finds the child or young person guilty, the next step in proceedings is to sentence the child or young person. If the Magistrate finds the child or young person not guilty, he or she will dismiss the charge.
Generally, the Magistrate who hears the case against the child or young person will sentence in relation to those offences where the Magistrate finds them guilty. In some serious cases, the Magistrate may order that the child or young person appear in the Supreme Court for sentence.
Depending on the nature of the offence, the seriousness of the offence and the child or young person’s previous criminal history, the Magistrate may order reports be prepared to assist the Magistrate to decide what is an appropriate penalty to impose on the child or young person. If the Magistrate orders reports then the Magistrate will adjourn the matter to enable preparation of the reports.