Young people between the ages of 10 -17 years old (inclusive) are required to appear in the Children’s Court if they have been charged with a criminal offence. Young people can be charged with criminal offences in the same way as adults. The process, procedure and sentencing considerations however, are very different. Rehabilitation is almost always the primary sentencing consideration in the Children’s Court.
At Stephen Peterson Lawyers we recognise the unique characteristics of the Children’s Court jurisdiction and the difficulty that can arise within the family when a young person is charged with criminal offences. We value keeping young people with their family wherever possible. We also encourage participation in education or entering the workforce.
It is relatively common for young people to make a bad decision or form poor peer associations. This can sometimes lead to getting caught up with the wrong crowd and being charged with a criminal offence. At Stephen Peterson Lawyers we value a child’s clean criminal record and will go to great lengths to protect it. There are several youth diversion options that can lead to charges being withdrawn and a clean criminal record being protected. The Childrens’ Court runs a ‘ropes program’ for example that allows young people who complete a high ropes course and other challenging activities to have their charges withdrawn.
If a child between the ages of 10 – 14 years old has been charged with a criminal offence, the Prosecution are required to prove that the child knew what they did was ‘seriously wrong’ – this is the doctrine of doli incapax. In some cases, children in the 10-14 year old age bracket cannot differentiate between conduct that is ‘naughty’ or ‘mischievous’ and conduct that is criminal. This area of the law is complex and needs to be carefully analysed by a specialist criminal lawyer. If the Prosecution cannot prove beyond reasonable doubt that the young person knew that their conduct was seriously wrong, then the charges against the child should be dismissed.