Youth Justice and Juvenile Crime


Brisbane Lawyers

Aitken Whyte Lawyers Brisbane - Criminal Defence Lawyers And Solicitors for Brisbane, Queensland

Youth Justice and Juvenile Crime

The criminal justice system is incredibly daunting to navigate through for adult defendants, let alone juvenile defendants. If your child is facing criminal charges and is going through the youth justice system and the Children’s Court, it is important that you understand the rights of children under Queensland law as well as the various options available.

Juvenile, or child, defendants or offenders are dealt with under the youth justice system, the relevant principles, procedures, penalties and sentencing options for which are set out under the Youth Justice Act 1992 (Qld). If the matter is to proceed to Court, all juvenile crime matters proceed to the Children's Court (Magistrates Court jurisdiction) and, if the matter is serious, it will procced onto the Children's Court of Queensland.

In Queensland, children under the age of 10 cannot be held criminally responsible for their actions and therefore cannot be charged with criminal offences. Between the ages of 10-14, children are still not considered to be criminally responsible however this can be rebutted by the Crown where it can be demonstrated that the child had knowledge that what they were doing was wrong. If a child is 15 years of age and above, they are considered to be criminally responsible for all actions as an offender. Up until recently, children aged 17 years of age were considered to be adult offenders. This law was amended in 2016 to include 17 year olds as juvenile offenders, which reflects the laws in the rest of Australia. These changes took force in November 2017.

Although children aged 10 years and over are able to be charged under the Criminal Code and other various crime related legislation, the relevant principles, procedures, penalties and sentencing options for juvenile offenders are set out under the Youth Justice Act 1992 (Qld) ("the Youth Justice Act").

Some of the main differences in dealing with juvenile offenders, as opposed to adult offenders, under the Youth Justice Act 1992 (Qld) are:

  • A parent or guardian is generally required to be present in Court;
  • The penalties are lighter and the options differ to those available to adult offenders;
  • The maximum periods for custodial sentences are considerably shorter;
  • If a custodial sentence is required they are sentenced to detention as imposed to imprisonment, and they are under the supervision of Youth Justice Services as opposed to Corrective Services; and,
  • There are also only two courts in Queensland that deal with juvenile offenders – the Children's Court (Magistrates Court jurisdiction) and the Children's Court of Queensland.

The Youth Justice Act sets out the penalty options for police officers and Courts dealing with juvenile offenders. These options include:

  • Taking no action – under s 11 of the under the Youth Justice Act, a police officer dealing with a juvenile offender is required to consider taking no action when a minor offence has occurred;
  • Cautioning – under Part 2 of the under the Youth Justice Act, a police officer may consider formally cautioning a juvenile offender by giving a verbal explanation and written notice of the offence to the offender. A caution cannot be given unless the child admits guilt, consents and is in the presence of a parent, guardian or other adult of the child’s choosing. This option is only available for minor offences;
  • Restorative justice process – also under Part 2 of the Youth Justice Act, a police office or Court r can make a referral of the child to the restorative justice process. Again, the child has to consent and, when the referral is made by a police officer, the offence must be considered too serious for a caution. This process requires that the child apologise to the victim and make amends in anyway deemed appropriate.
  • Drug Diversion – for drug related offences, both a police officer and the Court can refer a juvenile offender to a drug diversion program. The child must consent to the order and admit guilt. See s 172 under the Youth Justice Act.
  • Reprimands – if the offence is serious enough to progress to the Courts or the child has had a number of cautions but continues to offend, the Court has a number of additional sentencing powers. A reprimand can be given when the child admits or is found guilty and involves the Courts acknowledging the child’s wrongdoing without providing any further penalty. See s 175 under the Youth Justice Act.
  • Community Service Order – a juvenile offender can be placed on a community service order by the Courts if they are 13 years or older. The maximum amount of hours is determined by the child’s age but in any case, the minimum is 20 hours. See s 175 under the Youth Justice Act.
  • Fine – under s 175 of the Youth Justice Act, a Court is able to impose a fine on a juvenile offender if the Court is satisfied that the child, not their parent(s), has the capacity to pay the fine. This can also apply to restitution orders.
  • Probation – with their consent, a juvenile offender can be placed on a probation order, requiring them to be under the supervision of Youth Justice Services for the duration of the order. Youth Justice can require the child to undertake programs and counselling if it is considered appropriate. The duration of the order is dependent on the level of Court and seriousness of the offending. See s 175 under the Youth Justice Act.
  • Detention – if the offending is considered serious enough, a juvenile offender can be sentenced to a period of detention. This must only imposed as a last resort. A Court can only make such an order after a pre-sentence report has been requested and provided in relation to the child and must give written reasons for making an order of detention.

Facing a criminal offence at any stage in life can be highly stressful, if not traumatic. Dealing with those stresses as a child only increases the potential impacts. It is important that you provide your child with the best possible assistance. Contact us to discuss how we can best assist you and your child through this process.

Office Location and Contact Details

Brisbane
Aitken Whyte Lawyers
Level 2, 303 Adelaide Street, Brisbane
Ph: +617 3229 4459
Fax: +617 3211 9311
E: enquiries@awbrisbanelawyers.com.au