Penalties given by a court

Most criminal matters against a young person under 18 are dealt with in the Children’s Court.  Only very serious crimes (like murder) are dealt with in the District or Supreme Court.

Below, we list the different penalties that may be given by the Children’s Court.

For free and confidential legal advice about this topic, please contact us here.

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Non-conviction order

The Court may make a non-conviction order. This means that the Court has decided to not convict you. So even though you were found guilty of a crime, it will not show up on your criminal record. This usually only happens when you’re in trouble for doing something less serious, such as littering.

There are two types of non-conviction orders the Court can give you:


This means you will not be punished or penalised, in addition to not being convicted. This will usually happen where the Court thinks that it is not appropriate to punish you.

Good Behaviour order (more below)

Although this means you will not get a conviction, you will still have to sign a good behaviour order which you will have to follow for a maximum of 3 years.

Good behaviour order

If the Court finds you guilty of a crime, it might give you a good behaviour order. This means you will have to sign a document which states that you promise to be on good behaviour for a stated period of time.

A good behaviour order can be made with or without a conviction recorded against you. If the good behaviour order is made without a conviction, remember that your punishment is actually a non-conviction order (see above). This means that, although your actions won’t be recorded against you, you might have to agree to conditions such as attending a rehabilitation program.  When there is no conviction the good behaviour order can only last 3 years.

On the other hand, if the Court does decide to convict you and gives you a good behaviour order, you might have to agree to conditions in addition to the ones mentioned above, such as undertaking training, education or performing community service.

If the Court finds that you haven’t been following the conditions, it may give you a warning, add more conditions to the order or even cancel the order and re-sentence you to a more serious penalty for the offence you originally committed

If you have been given a good behaviour order and have a question about it, please contact us here.


The Magistrate Court may order you to pay a fine of an amount up to a maximum of $2,000. Before making you pay a fine, the Court will usually consider things like your age, what you have done and whether you have a job or can afford to pay the fine. Keep in mind that if you are not working and have no source of income, it is unlikely that the Court will order you to pay a fine. The idea is that it is you, not your parents or carer, that should be punished!

Non-association and place restriction orders

If you are being sentenced because you have been violent towards somebody and the Court has given you a ‘good behaviour order’ or placed you in periodic detention, they might also make a ‘non-association’ or ‘place restriction’ order on you.

A non-association order requires that you stay away from somebody and do not attempt to contact them in any way (for example by phone, Facebook or in person).

A place restriction order is a direction that you stay a certain number of metres away from a particular place.

Accommodation orders

In addition to any other orders the Court might sentence you to, the Court can make an accommodation order for up to a maximum of 3 years.

This means you will have to live at a place, or with a certain person, as directed by the Court. When deciding with whom or where you live, the Court will take into account things like whether the person or accommodation is suitable and whether they agree for you to live at their place..

If you do not live as directed, you may be brought back to Court where they may find you an alternative penalty and resentence you.

Deferred sentence order (or adjournment)

The court may decide to not sentence you immediately, known as a deferred sentence order. This means that within 12 months you may come back to the Court where they will decide your punishment.  This means that the court has decided to give you some more time before telling you what your penalty is. The court will sometimes do this if they are thinking of imposing a serious penalty, but want to give you another chance to show that you can stay out of trouble.

When the 12 months is over and you have to go back to Court to be sentenced, if you can show the Court that you’ve met all the conditions and have stayed out of trouble, the Court might give you a less serious sentence.  

Imprisonment order

If the Court decides that you’ve committed a very serious crime, it can order that you be imprisoned in a youth justice centre. This must be a last resort and should be for the shortest amount of time as possible.

The Court may place you in detention on either a full-time basis, meaning you will be imprisoned for a set and continued period of time, or part-time basis.

Keep in mind that a sentence of imprisonment is usually only given to young people who have committed a very very very serious crime (think things like armed robbery, sexual assault, serious drug crimes or murder) or who have already had lots of chances to follow good behaviour orders, but keep breaking their conditions. The Court will only make an imprisonment order as a last resort and if none of the other sentencing options are harsh enough. Plus, if you’re under 18, the Court will sentence you to imprisonment for as short a time as possible, depending on how serious your crimes or level of disobedience have been.

While in detention, you may be required to attend school, play sports and attend programs to address any issues you may have with alcohol, drugs, or anger management.

If you’re under 25 and you’ve been accused of a crime and want to know what could happen, please contact us here and we can give you free advice and information. Everything you tell us will be kept confidential.

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