Dribbin & Brown Children’s Court Lawyers have handled hundreds of Children’s Court Criminal cases.
We have offices in Ringwood, Moorabbin, Frankston, Dandenong and the Melbourne CBD in close to proximity to the Children’s Court in each locality.
More about the Children’s Court of Victoria
The Children’s Court of Victoria has a long history. It was established in 1906 as a tailored, specialist court for dealing with children. Today, the court has 2 divisions – family and criminal.
The Criminal Division deals with offences committed by children between the ages of 10 and 17. Even if a child turns 18 before the charges are dealt with, the Children’s Court can hear the case until the offender’s 19th birthday. After that, the matter will be dealt with in an adult court.
The Children’s Court sits in Melbourne and numerous suburban and rural courts.
The Criminal Division of the Children’s Court may deal with all charges except:
- Attempted murder;
- Child homicide;
- Defensive homicide;
- Arson causing death; and
- Culpable driving causing death.
The Criminal Division can also hear committal proceedings for serious criminal charges where the matter will ultimately be dealt with by a judge and jury in the County or Supreme Courts.
Sentencing – General Principles
In comparison with an adult court The Children’s Court has a very different approach to dealing with children facing criminal charges and to sentencing.
In adult court, the primary sentencing considerations are punishment and deterrence. In Children’s Court however, the focus is on the rehabilitation of the child.
As with adult court, children will also receive a sentencing discount for entering pleas of guilty at an early stage.
Section 362 of the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 sets out the sentencing guidelines for Magistrates. In summary, the Court must consider the child’s previous criminal history (if any), the child’s family circumstances, any reports tendered to the court, the suitability of the sentence to the child and the need to protect the overall community.
Children Under 10
The legislation provides that children under 10 do not have the requisite intent to commit a criminal offence.
s.344 Children Youth and Families Act 2005
It is conclusively presumed that a child under the age of 10 years cannot commit an offence.
s.362 Children Youth and Families Act 2005
Matters to be taken into account
(1) In determining which sentence to impose on a child, the Court must, as far as practicable, have regard to—
(a) the need to strengthen and preserve the relationship between the child and the child‘s family; and
(b) the desirability of allowing the child to live at home; and
(c) the desirability of allowing the education, training or employment of the child to continue without interruption or disturbance; and
(d) the need to minimise the stigma to the child resulting from a court determination; and
(e) the suitability of the sentence to the child; and
(f) if appropriate, the need to ensure that the child is aware that he or she must bear a responsibility for any action by him or her against the law; and
(g) if appropriate, the need to protect the community, or any person, from the violent or other wrongful acts of the child.
(2) In passing sentence on a child who has appeared before the Family Division or who is or has been the subject of an order of the Family Division (including a therapeutic treatment order), the Court must not impose a sentence more severe than it would have imposed had the child not so appeared or been the subject of such an order.
(3) If a child has participated in a group conference and has agreed to the group conference outcome plan, the Court must impose a sentence less severe than it would have imposed had the child not participated in a group conference.
(4) If sentencing of a child is deferred for the purpose of the child‘s participation in a group conference and the child has failed to participate in the group conference, the Court must not impose a sentence more severe than it would have imposed had sentencing not been so deferred.
Sentencing options in the Childrens’ Court
When sentencing a child per section 360 of the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 the court has a number of options. It may:
- Without conviction, dismiss the charge;
- Without conviction, dismiss the charge and order the young person to give an undertaking;
- Without conviction, order the young person to give an accountable undertaking;
- Without conviction, place the child on a good behaviour bond;
- With or without conviction, impose a fine;
- With or without conviction, place the child on probation;
- With or without conviction, release the child on a youth supervision order;
- Convict the child and make a youth attendance order;
- Convict the child and order that the child be detained in a youth residential centre; or
- Convict the child and order that the child be detained in a youth justice centre.