Which Cases Are Heard in the Children’s Court?

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Surry Hills Children's Courthouse

The Children (Criminal Proceedings) Act 1987 (‘the Act’) sets out many of the rules relating to criminal and traffic law proceedings involving those under the age of 18 years in New South Wales.

Section 5 of the Act provides that no child under the age of 10 can be guilty of an offence. This is known as the age of criminal responsibility.

Section 28(1) empowers the Children’s Court to hear and determine the following matters provided the defendant was under 18 at the time of the alleged offence and under 21 when charged:

  • proceedings for any offence other than a ‘serious children’s indictable offence’, and
  • committal proceedings for any offence.

A serious children’s indictable offence is defined as:

  • homicide,
  • aggravated sexual assault under section 61J of the Crimes Act, or an attempt to commit that offence, unless the complainant was under the age of 16,
  • assault with intent to have sexual intercourse under section 61K, of the Crimes Act, or an attempt to commit that offence,
  • manufacturing or selling firearms under the Firearms Act 1996 where the maximum penalty is 20 years in prison,
  • any offence punishable by 25 years or life in prison, and
  • any other indictable offence which may be prescribed by the regulations as a serious children’s indictable offence.

These matters must be heard and determined in adult courts.

Additionally, subsection 28(2) makes clear the Children’s Court does not have jurisdiction to hear and determine a traffic offences unless:

  • it arose out of the same circumstances as another offence for which the person is before the court, or
  • the person was not old enough to obtain a licence or permit when the offence was alleged to have been committed.

A traffic offence is broadly defined as any contained in the:

This includes common offences such as drink driving, driving with an illicit substance present, driving whilst suspended or disqualified, negligent driving and driving recklessly, furiously, in a manner or at a speed dangerous.

Section 29 of the Act outlines the rules when a child is charged with an offence together with a person in respect of whom the Children’s Court does not have jurisdiction. In that case, the court may either:

  • adjourn the proceedings against the child pending the finalisation of the co-defendant’s case, or
  • continue to hear the child’s case.

In deciding which course to take, the court must consider all relevant matters including whether:

  • the child wishes the case to continue,
  • the child is on bail,
  • continuing the proceedings is in the interests of justice, and
  • the adjournment is likely to be lengthy and, if so, the likely length.

Going to court for a traffic offence?

If you or a loved-one are charged with a criminal or traffic offence and would like to arrange a free conference with an experienced, specialist traffic lawyer that has specialist experience in Children’s Court cases, call us anytime on (02) 9261 8881.

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Ugur Nedim

Ugur Nedim

Ugur Nedim is an Accredited Criminal Law Specialist with 25 years of experience as a Criminal Defence Lawyer. He is the Principal of Sydney Criminal Lawyers®.

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