When a minor is alleged to have committed a criminal offence the matter is generally dealt with at children’s court.
Children’s court is a separate court system which is set up to deal with legal matters involving minors.
This can include cases where the child is the victim, as well as situations where a minor is alleged to have committed a criminal offence.
Children’s court has different laws and procedures to the adult court, so it is important that when you are looking for legal representation, you choose experienced children’s lawyers. Sydney has a number of children’s courts, including Bidura, Hornsby and Parramatta, and finding a lawyer who is familiar with the different courts and magistrates can make a significant difference to the outcome for your child.
What are the main differences between adult and children’s court?
Children’s court is set up to cater to the needs of children, and acknowledges the limitations they have when it comes to understanding the world around them and coping with stress.
Many juvenile offenders have difficulties expressing themselves.
Some can have other issues such as cognitive impairment, a history of physical or mental abuse and socio-economic disadvantages, which can impact on their ability to respond to charges made against them in an adult court.
Children’s court is intended to be a less overwhelming experience than adult court and addresses some of the specific challenges that face children and adolescents when they are dealing with the court system.
These challenges include long wait times, having to repeat their story numerous times, aggressive questioning by prosecution lawyers, and having to confront the accused in cases of abuse.
The procedures and processes of children’s court allow for more breaks for children and less waiting times, as well as separation between alleged victims and the accused.
The court also aims to provide a less intimidating experience with reduced formality and levels of questioning that are tailored to be sensitive to the needs of the child or young person.
Alternative methods of giving evidence can be used, including video statements and audio recordings of the young person providing their statement.
Defendants who are facing criminal charges at children’s court also face different penalties than adults who are being dealt with by the adult court system.
A child under 10 years of age is not considered to have criminal responsibility for any offences they commit.
Children who are older than 10 years of age can be considered criminally responsible if the prosecution can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they understood that their actions were wrong.
When it comes to sentencing in the children’s court, the emphasis is on guidance and assistance rather than punishment.
Some of the penalties that young offenders may face if they are found guilty include a caution, fine, good behaviour bond, community service order, youth conduct order, or in serious cases a control order.
Imprisonment is not considered an appropriate penalty for minors, but young people who are found guilty of serious offences may be placed in a detention centre.
If you are dealing with extremely serious charges, the matter may be referred to the district or supreme court for sentencing.
This happens in circumstances where it is believed that the penalties given by the children’s court are not severe enough.
Why choose a children’s lawyer?
Due to the differences in the court system for children, it is highly advisable to find a lawyer who has experience and knowledge of the children’s court and the processes involved.
Going to court is a distressing experience for many children and a lawyer who understands the impact that court proceedings can have on children can help make the process as straightforward as possible and alleviate stress.
Speaking to children about legal matters can be difficult, as legal terminology is often confusing, even to adults.
An experienced children’s lawyer will be able to explain what is going to happen in an age appropriate way and help your child to understand what they are likely to face and how and what they say will impact their case.
Things like the understanding the importance of telling the truth and knowing what to do if they don’t understand a question can make a big difference to a child’s confidence and stress levels as well as making sure the process goes as smoothly and quickly as possible.
If your child is facing criminal charges, the outcome can have a significant impact on their future and their emotional wellbeing.
Make sure you give them the best possible chance of a successful income by choosing the best possible lawyer to represent them at the children’s court.