Penalties given by a court

Most criminal matters against a young person under 18 are dealt with in the Youth Justice 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 Youth Justice Court.

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

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If the Court finds you guilty of doing something, the Court might decide to dismiss your matter. This means the Court has decided to let you off with no punishment and no conviction. This usually only happens when you’re in trouble for doing something less serious, such as littering.


If the Court finds you guilty of doing something, the Court might decide to discharge you. Although this means you will not be penalised for your actions, the Court may decide to record a conviction against you.


The Court may order an adjournment for a certain period of time, usually up to a maximum of 12 months. This means that the Court has decided to give you some more time before telling you what your penalty is. An adjournment may be ordered for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, if you haven’t done anything too serious, the Court might want to give you a chance to show that you can stay out of trouble. If, when the adjournment is over and you have to go back to Court to be sentenced, you can show that you have not broken the law again; the Court might discharge you, without penalty.

On other occasions, the Court will order an adjournment so that they can obtain a pre-sentence report to take into account before they sentence you. Other times they will grant an adjournment subject to bail conditions or because they would like you to attend a program such as a drug or alcohol program before they sentence you.

Good behaviour order

The Court may decide a good behaviour order is most appropriate. The order is basically a promise from you to be of good behaviour for a certain period of time, sometimes up to 2 years. You will be required to pay a monetary amount to the Court as a means of assuring it that you will stay out of trouble with the police (a ‘security’). You might also have to agree to other conditions, such as being home every night by 7pm (curfew) or going to school.

All the conditions of the order will be written out on a piece of paper, which you will have to sign and agree to. If, at the end of the term of your order, you have met all the conditions and the Court is happy with you, the Court is likely to have considered your matter dealt with. But if you don’t follow all of the conditions or are brought back before the Court for getting in trouble, the Court may find that you have broken your promise and are in breach of the order. You then face losing any amount of money you paid as security, and the Court might decide to cancel your order and re-sentence you to a more a serious punishment.

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


The Court may choose to issue you with a fine, usually payable within 28 days. The maximum amount they can make you pay will depend on what you’ve done but can be anything from $100 to $1000. Before making you pay a fine, the Court will usually take into account things like whether you have a job or can afford to pay the fine, but the Court is not required to do so. 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, who is being punished!

Community work order

The Court may order you to do unpaid community services work, usually with a charity or community organisation. Before the Court makes this order, they will have to receive a report from your probation officer so that the Court can satisfy itself that you are a suitable person for community work, and that there is work available.

The maximum number of hours of community service the Court can assign you to do is 480.

If you don’t do the work as specified in the order (after you have agreed to do it), it is likely that you will have to go back to Court where they may increase the number of hours you have to do, or may cancel the order and sentence you to a more serious penalty.

Suspended detention order

Sometimes the Court will sentence you to a ‘suspended’ detention order. This means that although the Court has ordered you to spend time in a detention centre, the Court has delayed this from happening in order to allow you to demonstrate to the Court that you are capable of good behaviour and staying out of trouble. You will be able to live within the community and not have to live in detention, but you will probably have to follow strict special conditions such as regularly reporting to your youth justice worker, going to school, not drinking alcohol or using illegal drugs, being home every night by a certain time (curfew), or attending medical, psychological or drug counselling.

The Court may also require you to follow an ‘alternative detention order’. This means you will have to sign a document stating that you will follow certain conditions and will reside at a place decided by the Court.

If you break any conditions, break your alternative detention order or are caught doing something else by the police, the Court is going to be very unimpressed with you and might decide to send you to detention for the entire time originally set down.

If you have any questions about a suspended detention order, you can contact us here.

Detention or imprisonment order

If the Court decides that you’ve done something so serious that none of the other penalties should apply, the Court can imprison you in a detention place, such as a youth justice centre, for a maximum period of up to 2 years. The Court will only make an imprisonment order as a last resort and if none of the other sentencing options are harsh enough. Most young people who are given this sentence have already had to follow orders before, such as a good behaviour or community work order.

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 on a part-time basis. If it’s part time, you’re under ‘periodic detention’. This means that you will be locked up for a few days a week. 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 are worried that you might be given an imprisonment order and want some advice, you can contact us here.


At any stage of the Court proceedings (before the court finds you guilty), the Court can stop the proceedings and refer you to be re-assessed for inclusion in a diversion program or Youth Justice Conference with the consent of the police and yourself.

Criminal records after going to court

If you’re under 15 and the court finds you guilty of a crime and doesn’t record a conviction, no other court is allowed to hear about that finding if it later comes up when you’re an adult if you’ve been charged with a crime.

If you’re over 15 when you commit the crime and want to know if you have to disclose your crimes to an employer, please contact us here and we can give you advice.

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