Aitken Whyte Lawyers Criminal Defence team understand the unique intricacies of providing support to juvenile offenders and their families.
Being charged with a criminal offence and having to attend Court can be stressful as an adult. For juveniles, the process can be confusing and at times scary.
It can also be particularly concerning for parents of a child charged with an offence.
Our team is here to explain the process in clear language to young people and their families and provide support and expert legal representation through what can be an uncertain time.
Our lawyers, as well as the barristers and other experts we work with, are particularly apt at communicating with children and young people, while also applying our extensive experience and knowledge in crime so that your child’s legal defence is in the best hands.
This article explains the general process of the Childrens Court and answers common questions so that you can be more informed. For information on the sentencing of juvenile offenders, including the recording of convictions, publicity, and obligations of parents and guardians, see our article on Sentencing in the Childrens Court.
For advice on your specific situation, call us 24/7 on 07 5408 0655. We are always happy to take your call and we are here to help.
In Queensland, the law does not hold any child who is under the age of 10 criminally responsible for their acts. Therefore, the police cannot charge a child under 10 with a criminal offence.
Police can charge any child between the age of 10 and 13, however, the Court cannot find them guilty unless the police can prove that the child knew, or should have known, that what they were doing was wrong at the time the crime was committed.
If prosecuting a child between the ages of 14 and 17, it is not specifically necessary for the police to prove they had capacity to understand the wrongfulness of the act.
Therefore, any child between 10 and 17 who the police have charged with a Criminal Offence, may have to appear before the Childrens Court.
The Youth Justice Act 1992 considers a person who has turned 18 years of age an adult. A person aged 18 years or over at the time of allegedly committing an offence will therefore have their matters dealt with by the adult justice system.
The Court may deal with someone who is now 18 years old as a child if the offence the police have charged them with was committed before they turned 18.
Queensland has a specific Childrens Court jurisdiction, whereby the Magistrates Court and District Court are invoked with the jurisdiction to deal with youth justice and child protection matters as established under the Children’s Court Act 1992.
The Childrens Court in the Magistrates Court can deal with less serious offences.
Examples of “less serious” offences could include:
Pleading Not Guilty in The Magistrates Court
If your child pleads not guilty, the matter will go to trial before a Magistrate in the Magistrates Court. This is a summary hearing.
Pleading Guilty in The Magistrates Court
Alternatively, if your child pleads guilty, then the matter will go to sentencing before a Magistrate, where the Court will decide what sentence is appropriate, considering:
If your child has been charged with a more serious, or indictable offence, the matter will go through a committal hearing where the Magistrate will hear all the evidence and decide whether to send the matter to the Childrens Court of Queensland, a specialist jurisdiction of the District Court.
For offences where the maximum penalty available is fourteen years imprisonment or more, it must proceed by way of indictment, (a formal accusation by the prosecution), to either the District or Supreme Court.
Examples of “more serious” offences could include:
In the period between the police charging your child and the matter being finalised before the Court, your child will either be:
If the police officer chooses not to release your child on bail, they must bring the matter promptly before the Court where your child will have an opportunity to make a bail application.
The Court may refuse to release your child on bail depending on:
If the Court remands your child in custody, they will hold them at a youth detention centre.
Queensland currently has two youth detention centres at the following locations:
Brisbane Youth Detention Centre
99 Wolston Park Road
Cleveland Youth Detention Centre
27-79 Old Common Road
The police, or otherwise the Court, will grant bail for most child offenders. This means they can live and stay at home in between Court appearances.
While your child is on bail, they must comply with any conditions imposed on them. If they don’t, they could be arrested and taken to a youth detention centre.
We have a team of experienced solicitors who are familiar with Childrens Court proceedings who will advocate for the best possible outcome for your child.
If the police have charged your child with an offence, call our office on 07 5408 0655 for a free discussion.
The State Childrens Court is different from the Federal Family Court of Australia and therefore does not deal with other family-related proceedings such as custody issues between parents.
Proper experience appearing before the Childrens Court is essential.
Aitken Whyte Lawyers are focused on results.
Our Criminal Defence team will advise you on the proper course to take if you or your child have been contacted by the police, to prepare to appear in Court and to present your child’s case in the best light for the optimal possible outcome.
For information on sentencing options, including criminal records, publicity, and the obligations of parents and guardians, see our article on Sentencing in the Childrens Court.
Aitken Whyte Lawyers can assist you with all matters before the Childrens Court.
Aitken Whyte Lawyers
11/8 Pikki Street,
Maroochydore Qld 4558
Ph: +617 5408 0655
Fax: +617 3211 9311