Criminal Justice Changes: Youth Court
FACT SHEET 9: YOUTH COURT
Proposals to change some aspects of procedure for young offenders to align them with changes to criminal procedure in the adult jurisdiction.
The Youth Court is established under the Children, Young Persons and their Families Act 1989 for dealing with young offenders (14-16 years’ old).
Some parts of Youth Court procedure are linked to criminal procedure for adults (aged 17 years and over) in the District Court and High Court. In particular, the current categories of offences (based around the summary1 versus indictable2 distinction) are used to:
Identify which cases must or may go to the Youth Court when a young offender is involved.
Define some of the protections for young offenders when their case is in the District Court or High Court (eg, sentencing restrictions).
Currently, the Youth Court may offer to hear purely indictable (generally more serious) offences – this is called offering jurisdiction to the young person. This process is complex and results in adjournments, creating delay.
When the District Court or High Court sentences young offenders, it cannot sentence them to imprisonment or home detention unless it is a purely indictable offence.
Ensuring that the Youth Court will be able to deal with all offences committed by a young person, other than (as currently) murder, manslaughter, or non-imprisonable traffic offences.
However, a young offender would be transferred to the adult jurisdiction (District Court or High Court) if they:
Elect jury trial.
Are charged with another young person or an adult whose case is to be decided by a jury.
Preserve the current sentencing restriction for when the District Court or High Court sentences young offenders, so they cannot be sentenced to imprisonment or home detention unless it is:
Any Category 4 (High Court only) offence.
A Category 3 (jury trial electable) offence punishable by 14 years’ imprisonment
1 Cases tried by a judge alone in a District Court.
2 Cases tried by jury in either the High Court or a District Court
The proposal preserves current youth justice policy and the integrity of the Youth Court’s unique process while ensuring the Youth Court continues to operate in a way that complements the adult jurisdiction. Less Youth Court time would be spent on preliminary jurisdictional matters (eg, offer of jurisdiction) and more on the actual case, resulting in faster resolution of cases which benefits victims, young people, and their families. Changes the Youth Court’s focus, from whether to hear a case, to the appropriate sanction for the offending (that is, whether to use Youth Court orders under the Children, Young Persons and their Families Act 1989 or to convict and transfer to the adult jurisdiction for sentence).