Penalties given by a court

Most criminal matters against a young person under 18 are dealt with in the NSW 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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Dismissal or dismissal with a caution

This means that there is no conviction (so you won’t go to prison) and no punishment is given. This is usually only available for relatively minor offences.


A ‘good behaviour bond’ is an order from the Court that the young person be on good behaviour for a specific length of time.

A young person who is released on a bond must sign a document promising to be of good behaviour (which means not committing any further offences) for a period up to two years.

Other conditions are often included in the bond, including that the young person accept supervision by an officer of the Department of Juvenile Justice or that they attend a certain program such as drug rehabilitation.

If the bond is broken the young person can be brought to court and sentenced again for the original offence.

Court Costs Levy

A court costs levy (which is a financial penalty) is charged to a person who is found guilty of an offence. This is not related to the offence itself but rather for the fact that you have been convicted in a court.

However, you will not need to pay the levy if:

  • your trial is heard in the Children’s Court; or
  • if the offence was traffic-related and it was heard in the Local Court but the punishment was handed down in the Children’s Court.

A court may also order that a person found guilty of a crime and who is under 18 years old does not have to pay the levy.

Victims Support Levy

The Victims Support Scheme is a fund which exists to provide support to victims of crimes. To help pay for the Scheme, a levy (which is a financial penalty) is charged to those who are found guilty of an offence.

If you are found guilty of a serious crime or if you plead guilty to one, you will need to pay a levy of $156. For all other offences, the levy is $69.

However, the levy will not be charged if the offence only relates to:

  • offensive conduct;
  • using offensive language;
  • fare evading on public transport; or
  • parking of a vehicle.


Fines may be given by the Court as a penalty for breaking the law. They will be given after a court case has happened and a person has been found guilty of a crime. The fines must be paid within 28 days of when the Court imposes the fine. If you are fined by the Court, you should receive written notice that you have been fined, and that notice should contain information about:

  • how to pay;
  • time for payment;
  • who the money should be paid to;
  • how to request extra time; and
  • the consequences for failing to pay the fine (e.g. the enforcement action).

You may also apply for additional time to pay your fine.

If you fail to pay your fine by the due date, you will receive a court enforcement notice and will have 28 days from this notice to pay your original fine and any additional costs.

In considering the amount to fine someone, the Court will consider a range of factors including a person’s ability to pay the fine (e.g. income, work, age etc). A fine is not usually imposed unless the young person has some source of income and can pay the fine.

The maximum fine that the Children’s Court can give is $1,100. The Court can give a fine as well as a bond or probation.

Referral to a Youth Justice Conference

If a young person admits they are guilty of the offence, they can be referred to a Youth Justice Conference. See our page on Youth Justice Conferences here.

Youth Conduct Orders

If a young person has been charged with an offence, and a warning, caution or youth justice conference isn’t given, they may receive a Youth Conduct Order.  A Youth Conduct Order is an order setting out certain behaviour the young person has to follow or things they must not do. Obeying the Youth Conduct Order gives the young person time to show good behaviour before a decision is made by the Court about whether they are guilty and what punishment should be given.

The young person has to agree to this unless they have pleaded guilty or the Court has found them guilty after a trial.  

A court can give a temporary youth conduct order to last for two months. During this time, the young person must follow the order and participate in the preparation of a final conduct plan. The Children’s Court can then make a final youth conduct order that requires the young person to follow the final conduct plan.  A final youth conduct order cannot be in effect for more than twelve months.  

If the young person follows the Youth Conduct Order, the Children’s Court may take this into account as a positive factor when dealing with the offence and may even dismiss the charge if the child did not plead guilty to or was not found guilty of the offence. Failure to follow the plan may result in the young person being returned to the Children’s Court.  

If you have been given a Youth Conduct Order and have a question about it, please contact us here.

Adjournment for Rehabilitation orders

A court can order an adjournment for up to 12 months. An adjournment is where the decision about punishment is on hold.  A court will do this where they are thinking of imposing a serious penalty but want to give the offender the chance to demonstrate that they have improved their behaviour. The adjournment will usually depend on conditions, such as attending a drug and alcohol program. If the conditions of the adjournment are met and the offender has demonstrated that they have improved, the court will usually give them a less serious sentence.


Probation is just like a bond but the young person is almost always supervised by a Department of Juvenile Justice officer. If a young person breaks their probation order they will be taken back to court where a more serious punishment is likely to be given. Probation can be ordered in addition to a community service order.

Community service order

A community service order involves the young person doing unpaid work for the community, usually with a charity or community organisation for up to 250 hours.

Control orders

A control order means that the young person is sent to a detention centre for people under 18 run by the department of juvenile justice.  The control order cannot last for more than two years. A control order may not be made unless the court decides that a less severe penalty is not appropriate.

Penalty options in the District Court and the Supreme Court

For more serious crimes, the case will be decided by the District or the Supreme Court.  Many of the sentencing options available to the Children’s court are also available to the District and Supreme Court.

For serious offences (such as murder) the full range of adult penalties is open to the court, including imprisonment.

Driver licence orders

If you’re found guilty of a graffiti offence, the court may take away or suspend your driving licence.

For example, the court has the power to make the following driver licence orders (instead of giving you a fine):

  • if you are on your L or P plates, it may order that your learner licence period or your provisional licence period be extended for six months in addition to when it normally would have ended; or
  • if you are on your full licence, it may order that you don’t get a certain number of demerit points during a period of up to six months (otherwise, you will lose your licence). This will usually be 4 demerit points but it may be a different amount.

If you’re 18 or under 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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