What cases can be heard by the Juvenile Court?

The Juvenile Court hears all criminal matters where the accused person is a minor; A person who is 18 years or younger.

Section 2 of the Children’s Act which defines a child as ‘a person under 15 years of age and includes a young person’. ‘Young person’ is defined as ‘a person of 14 years of age or older but under 18 years of age’.

In the event that a child is charged jointly with an adult then the child will be brought before the Magistrate Court along with his/her adult co-accused.

In the event that the child turns 18 years of age while the case is pending before the Juvenile Court, the case may be transferred to the Magistrate’s Court for trial (if the trial has not started) and the Court in sentencing the convict will take cognisance of the fact that the accused was a minor at the time the offence was committed.

No child shall be prosecuted for any offence except- the offence of murder or an offence for which the penalty is death; or on the instructions of the Attorney-General.

Can you go to prison as a minor?

When it comes to sentencing a juvenile, imprisonment is the exception. There is a complete bar from imprisoning a young person (a child below 14 years). The Court has to explore other possibilities before it comes conclusion that imprisonment is necessary.

See section 95 (1) for the sentences that the Court may consider in place of imprisonment including absolute or conditional discharge, probation orders, fines by the juvenile or the parent or ordering the parents to give security for good behaviour.

In the event the Juvenile Court does impose a fine, damages or costs and the child is under 14 years of age, the Court shall order the parents to pay the fine, damages or costs see section 96.

Committal to a Juvenile Centre

A court shall not order a child to be committed to a Juvenile Centre unless the Court is satisfied that, having regard to his character and previous conduct, the circumstances of the offence and any other relevant factor, it is expedient for his reform and the prevention of crime that he should undergo a period of training in a Juvenile Centre.

The Juvenile Court, established under section 93 of the Children Act is the court of law responsible for the trial and supervision of children under the age of 18 years.

Until 2019, these cases were administered by the Victoria Magistrates’ Court and was chaired by a magistrate sitting with at least two persons. These cases have been reallocated to the Supreme Court criminal division during 2019 and are being taken by one of two Supreme Court Judges sitting with the appointed members.

Methods of dealing with children charged with any offence, if the Juvenile Court is satisfied by his/her guilt, include making a probation order under the probation of Offenders Act, committing him/her to the care of a relative or other person, ordering him/her to pay a fine, ordering his parents or  guardians to pay a fine and sentencing him to imprisonment if he is a young person convicted of an offence punishable with imprisonment.

There are however restrictions on imprisonment. The law under Section 94(1) states “notwithstanding any other written law, no child under 14 years of age shall be sentenced to imprisonment and “ no young person shall be sentenced to imprisonment if he can be suitably dealt with in any other way provided for under this Act.