Last week, our Associate Mikaela Eldridge appeared at the Surry Hills Children’s Court and her client walked away with proceedings being dismissed despite admitting the offence.
Mikaela’s client was a young boy in year 7, who had been in an altercation with his father and was subsequently arrested and charged by police.
Our client was:
- had good family support;
- was doing well at school; and
- seeing a counsellor.
These factors allowed the court to deal with the matter without a plea of guilty or a sentence.
Instead, the court accepted that our client admitted the offences (different to formally pleading guilty) and dismissed the charges after giving him a caution.
This result was the best outcome for our client and it will not stigmatise or harm him in the future.
The Children’s Court has a very wide range of sentencing options, a large number of which are without a criminal conviction. In fact, the Magistrate has a discretion to not record a conviction in almost all situations.
Young Offender Act: Diversion Scheme
The Children’s Court and police who deal with children also have a diversion scheme from the criminal justice system, which involves a young person sometimes not going to court or if they do go to court, not being formally sentenced.
Police and the court have powers under the Young Offenders Act to dismiss proceedings. In dismissing the proceedings, they can do one of the following:
Police Officers can:
- Give a child a warning after they are arrested. But they cannot do so if the child commits a violent offence.
- Give a child a caution after they are arrested. A police officer can do so if the child admits the offence and they believe it is in the interests of justice to do so. A child can get up to 3 cautions by a police officer.
The Children’s Court can:
- Give a child a caution after they come before the court and ‘admit the offence’. (This is what happened with Mikaela’s client).
- Send a child off for Youth Justice Conferencing. This involves the child meeting with the victim and talking with the assistance of Juvenile Justice. Then an outcome plan is developed to ensure the child doesn’t commit the offence again.
A child’s record can follow them around for their entire life, it is important to ensure the right court or out of court resolution is reached, either by way of diversion through the Young Offender’s Act or by ensuring a criminal conviction is not recorded in the Children’s Court.
We regularly appear for children in the Children’s Court in criminal matters and have experience in talking with police when a child is arrested to avoid charging or prior to arrest to avoid arrest altogether. We have also handled JIRT investigations (Joint Investigation Response Team with Department of Community Services and the NSW Police into juvenile offending).