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.
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This means that the court may not record a conviction and no punishment is given.
The charge may be dismissed upon the young person giving an undertaking or accountable undertaking for up to six months, or in exceptional circumstances 12 months, to do or not to do the acts specified in the undertaking.
A good behaviour bond that does not involve a conviction may require the young person to sign a document in which they promise not to commit any further offences for a period of time. This can be up to one year if they are less than 15 years of age, or up to 18 months if they are 15 years or over and the circumstances are exceptional.
The Court may impose a fine, subject to the young person’s financial situation. A conviction may also be recorded on their criminal record. If the young person is under 15, a fine cannot be more than $155.46 for one crime $310.92 for more than one crime. If they are 15 or over, a fine cannot be more than $777.30 for one crime or more than $1554.60 for more than one offence.
The young person may be placed on probation for up to 12 months or, if the offence is serious, up to 18 months. A conviction may also be recorded on their criminal record. Probation is usually given to young people who have offended once or twice before. A probation order gives the young person the opportunity to work through the things that have caused them to get into trouble. A young person on probation must:
Young people aged between 10 and 17 who have offended and appeared in court before and who have been found guilty of a serious offence, or numerous offences, may be placed on a youth supervision order. A conviction may also be recorded on their criminal record. The time limits are the same as those for probation, but a youth supervision order involves more intensive supervision and may include community work. A young person on a youth supervision order must:
A young person who is over 15 but under 19 and has been found guilty of a serious offence or has appeared in court many times before could be placed on a youth attendance order (‘YAO’) for up to a year. This can only be imposed if the Court is otherwise considering a period of detention in a youth justice centre. It is a direct alternative to being locked up. If a young person is placed on a YAO, the order has to finish by the time they turn 21. A young person on a youth attendance order must:
A young person placed on a youth attendance order will spend up to ten hours a week attending the YAO program.
A young person under 15 who has been found guilty of very serious offences or who has appeared in court many times may be sentenced to detention in a youth residential centre (‘YRC’). The Court must be satisfied that the circumstances and nature of the offence(s) are serious and that no other sentence is appropriate. Most young people who get a YRC sentence will have had a number of community-based orders before, which will usually include probation and youth supervision orders. A young person in a youth residential centre may still be allowed to do the following:
Young people aged between 15 and 20 years who have been found guilty of very serious offences or who have appeared in court many times before, can receive a youth justice centre order (‘YJC’).. The court may impose a YJC order after it has received a pre-sentence report, and where it believes that there are reasonable prospects for the rehabilitation of the defendant. Most young people who get a YJC sentence will have had a number of community-based orders before, for example, probation, youth supervision orders and youth attendance orders. A young person in a youth justice centre may participate in activities and programs which include:
Even after a young person is brought before the Court, the Court can decide that the case is more appropriate for diversion (ie. to be dealt with away from the formal court system).
There is no legislated right of access to diversionary programs for young offenders in Victoria. However, there are three programs available to the Court if it considers the case appropriate for one of these diversionary schemes.
The ROPES is a special program running in Melbourne and some other courts in Victoria for those people under 17 who have committed minor offences and who don’t have any criminal history. If you complete the program, you won’t have to have the case heard in court and you won’t have any convictions or a finding of guilty recorded against your name.
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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