The New South Wales Court of Criminal Appeal has reversed a judge’s decision not to record a conviction after a 15-year old teenage girl who pleaded guilty to charges including take and detain with the intention of obtaining an advantage, assault occasioning actual bodily harm in company and common assault.
Each of these are indictable offences, which means they can be referred to a higher court such as the District or Supreme Court for finalisation, rather than remaining in the Local Court or, in this case, the Children’s Court.
Horrific prolonged attack on a younger boy
The court heard that the 15-year old girl led an attack on a 13-year old boy during a sleepover in March last year involving three other teenage girls.
During the prolonged assault, the girls tied the boy’s hands, ankles and covered his mouth with duct tape. They kicked and punched him, and burned him with a cigarette lighter.
All of the girls held the boy down while they used scissors to cut his hair and shave his eyebrows. The 15-year old filmed the assault on the boy’s phone, which they had stolen from him, demanding his passcode to unlock the phone while he was under attack.
The four had attended school together and were ‘friends’ prior to the assault. The boy eventually escaped and ran home to his parents.
The 15-year old pleaded guilty and changed schools in the interests of the victim. She also cut ties with the other girls involved in the attack. The result of their criminal proceedings are not known.
At the time, the judge found that the girl showed genuine remorse and had good prospects for rehabilitation.
No criminal conviction
The judge initially indicated that a criminal conviction would be recorded against the teen, but eneded up deciding not to record one.
However, the Director of Public Prosecutions appealed the sentence to the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal on the basis that it was inadequate. This is known as a Crown Inadequacy Appeal, which an succeed if the original penalty was manifestly inadequate.
The appeals court agreed with the DPP, recorded a conviction against the teen’s name and imposed an 18-month Community Corrections Order.
What happens when a child gets a criminal record?
The Children’s Court, which deals with criminal proceedings for children over the age of 10 (the age of culpability) and 18 years, when a child becomes an adult, considers a range of factors in sentencing, particularly with respect to recording criminal convictions, because having a criminal conviction can have seriousimplications.
A criminal conviction can make it harder to travel overseas, to apply for some jobs and follow some career paths. It can affect applications for rental properties, and applications to adopt or foster children. It can also have an effect if the person with the conviction and criminal record has any future trouble with the law.
Some convictions are deleted over time, which is known as a ‘spent conviction’. This also means the conviction does not need to be disclosed.
Convictions from the Children’s Court are considered spent after 3 years, and will not need to be disclosed if the young offender has not been in any more trouble during that three-year period.