Children’s Court

Newcastle Court Lawyers are experienced in defending children in all types of Criminal Law and AVO matters.

In most Children’s Court matters, Legal Aid funding is available.

In NSW, a Child is defined as a person under the age of 18 years. In the Children’s Court, they are referred to as the ‘Young Person’.

A lawyer acting for a young person acts as a ‘direct representative’ of the child. Accordingly, the legal representative owes the same duties of undivided loyalty, confidentiality and competent representation to the child as is due to an adult. Furthermore, the lawyer must act on the instructions of the child, and not those of a parent or carer, regardless of who pays the legal fees.

The Children’s Court has a much wider jurisdiction to hear and determine matters than the Local Court. It has jurisdiction to hear and determine proceedings in respect of any offence, other than serious children’s indictable offences and certain traffic offences.

The sentencing principles in the Children’s Court are also very different to adult courts. The Children’s Court has regard to the principle that while children bear responsibility for their actions, they require guidance and assistance because of their state of dependency and lack of maturity. It is therefore preferable to allow their education or employment to continue uninterrupted than place them on onerous bail or bond conditions. Furthermore, considerations of general deterrence and retribution are of less significance than they would be when sentencing an adult for the same offence.

When a Children’s Court sentences a young person for a serious offence, they will usually adjourn the matter in order to obtain a Juvenile Justice (JJ) pre-sentence report. JJ reports are frequently helpful when presenting a plea in mitigation in the Children’s Court. The reports are required to address certain areas which always include: the child’s attitudes toward the offence, the circumstances in which it occurred, their family background, education, drug and alcohol history, medical history and any positive interests the child may have. The report makes recommendations about the types of interventions that my assist the child as well as their suitability for a CSO. It can also sometimes be used to argue against a term of full time custody.

In the Children’s Court, a child under the age of 10 years cannot be guilty of an offence. The legal principle of doli incapax states that a child cannot form or possess a criminal intent. Doli Incapax relates to children from 10 to 13 years of age and becomes more difficult to rely on the closer the young person gets to 14.

A Statement or admissions made by child cannot be used against them unless the person responsible for the child was present at the time. While there are some exceptions to this requirement, the general rule is that a child cannot make a confession unless in the presence of his parents or carer, or lawyer.

Significantly, if you are found guilty of an offence in the Children’s Court, the court will not record a conviction for a child who is under the age of 16 and has discretion to refuse to record a conviction for a child above the age of 16 years.

For more information contact Newcastle Courts Lawyers to arrange a free first consultation.