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Sentencing in the Children's Court

When you plead guilty or are found guilty of an offence at court, the court will then give you a penalty or punishment for that offence. There are different penalties that the court can give you.

Dismissal with a caution

The court may dismiss the charge or charges with a caution. There is no further punishment and no conviction will be recorded against you. You may get a caution if it is your first offence and it is not a very serious one.

Good behaviour bond

A bond is a promise you make to the court to be of good behaviour for a certain period of time. The court can also impose other conditions on the bond like accepting Juvenile Justice supervision or that you must attend school.

You will have to sign some paperwork at the Court Registry to acknowledge the conditions of your bond.

If you commit any further offences during the bond, or don't stick to the conditions of the bond, you can be breached and you will have to come back to court to be re-sentenced for the original offence.

Fine

The Children's Court can give you a fine of up to $1,100 per offence, depending on the offence. The court has to think about whether a young person can afford to pay a fine before they use this penalty.

If you are not going to be able to pay the fine within 28 days, you should go to the Court Registry and ask for an extension or apply to pay by instalments.

Youth Justice Conference

This is a meeting that is organised by someone from Juvenile Justice called a Youth Justice Conference Convenor. You will have to attend the meeting with your support person or support people, the convenor, someone from the police and in many cases, the victim.

At the meeting, you will have to say sorry to the victim for what you have done. You then work out ways to make it up to the victim and the community. These are listed in an outcome plan. There can't be anything in the plan that you do not agree to.

Plans usually include:

  • apology letters
  • agreeing to go to counselling or
  • a small amount of community work.

If the court approves the outcome plan and you successfully complete it, your charges will be dismissed and no conviction will be recorded against you.

'Griffiths remand' or deferral of sentencing

Sometimes the court will not want to sentence you on the day you appear in court but will instead give you some time (usually three to six months) to do certain things like finishing rehab, do a traffic offenders course or mediation with your family. If you can prove that you can stay out of trouble and you do what you have told the court you are going to do, you will usually get a better sentence than if you had been sentenced straight away.

The Magistrate can decide to keep you on bail until you get sentenced.

Probation

Probation is like a good behaviour bond except there is almost always a condition that you are supervised by Juvenile Justice. You will be expected to work more closely with Juvenile Justice and attend more regularly on probation than on a good behaviour bond. Probation is a more serious penalty than a good behaviour bond, which means that it will be more serious if you breach it.

Community Service Order (CSO)

A Community Service Order is a very serious penalty and one the court will only look at if they are thinking about locking you up.

If the court makes a CSO, they will order that you have to do a certain amount of hours of community service.

Juvenile Justice will tell you what sort of community service work or programs you have to do, which is usually:

  • community work like cleaning up public areas or gardening
  • counselling.

If you are under 16, the court can order up to 100 hours. If you are over 16, the court can order up to 250 hours.

If you do not turn up for your CSO or don't do all the hours you are meant to, there is a very good chance that you will get locked up.

Control Order (Locked up)

A control order is where you have to go to a Juvenile Justice Centre to serve a sentence. This outcome is the very last option that the Court will consider and is only used for very serious offences or if you have a long history of offending.

The longest that you can get locked up for at the Children's Court is two years for one offence or three years in total for multiple offences.

A Magistrate can sometimes suspend a control order, which means that you can serve your sentence in the community and enter a bond. However, if you breach the suspended sentence by breaching the conditions of the bond or doing any new offences, you will almost always have to serve your sentence locked up.

Court Costs

At sentence you will need to pay a Victims Compensation Levy for many crimes. Your lawyer can ask the court to waive these costs so you don't have to pay them.

If the Magistrate says you have to pay them and you can't afford it, speak to the Court Registry and ask for an extension or apply to pay by instalments.

Can I appeal?

If you are not happy with the sentence that you have received from the Children's Court, you can appeal to the District Court and a judge will consider whether your sentence was too harsh. You can also appeal if the court found you guilty and you think the court’s decision was wrong.

You should talk to your lawyer first if you are thinking about appealing and they will give you some advice about whether they think you should appeal or not. If you are in custody, you should put your name down to see the visiting lawyer and you can talk to them about lodging an appeal.

You have to act quickly though. An appeal normally has to be lodged within 28 days of your sentence date.