In Queensland persons under 17 years who committ an offence are ordered to appear in the Childrens Court.
The Children Courts were established by the Childrens Court Act 1992. The jurisdiction of these courts includes the power to determine cases where the offender is a child under the age of 17. Several legislations, including the Youth Justice Act 1992, set out the court’s powers in relation to juvenile justice matters. The protection of children has also become a key concern of the Childrens Court in terms of the Child Protection Act 1999.
Childrens Courts are the Magistrates Courts which deal with minor offences. They are different from the Childrens Court of Queensland which is a special District Court with jurisdiction to hear serious criminal matters, which would otherwise be dealt with in the adult District Court or the Supreme Court. The child offenders are usually given an opportunity to decide which court should hear their case. The advantage of electing the Childrens Court of Queensland is that this particular court has special procedures to deal with the child and the circumstances of the child will be deeply considered. But if the child offender elects the District Court or the Supreme Court he/she loses this special treatment, except for the closed-court hearings and the child will be treated in the same way as an adult throughout the proceedings. This is one point where you need a good lawyers help for he knows both advantages and disadvantages of electing either court.
Appeals against the decisions of the Childrens Courts can be made to the Childrens Court of Queensland, and at the next level, to the Supreme Court. The Childrens Courts can be held at any place within the territory of Queensland where a magistrate court or a district court is usually held. However, Brisbane is an exception with its separate building for the administration of juvenile justice.
The Childrens Court is a closed court. Which means, only the persons who are involved in the current case are allowed to be in court, when the proceedings take place. Other than the magistrate or the judge, the persons who are allowed to be present are the court clerks, representatives from the Department of Child Safety, parents and their legal representative, the child and his/her legal representative, the separate Representative if appointed by the court to represent the child's interests, and if the child is an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, a representative of the community justice group in the respective community, and other parties who the magistrate would like to hear from.
Under the Youth Justice Act, the presence of parents is generally required when a child appears before a court. If the parents are not present, the court may usually make inquires as to their whereabouts and whether they are informed of the trial. The Court may even order them to attend the proceedings. The court is under a duty to ensure that the child and any parent of the child present have full opportunity to be heard and participate in the proceeding. Moreover, the court must ensure, as far as practicable, that the child and parent understand the nature of the alleged offence, the court’s procedures and the consequences of any decision it may make.
Some of the sentences imposed on child offenders are reprimand, good behavior order, fine, probation, community service orders, intensive supervision orders, conditional release orders, detention orders, youth justice conferences, restitution and compensation, and license disqualification. However, sentencing a child must be done in accordance with the sentencing principles, laid down in the Youth Justice Act. The age of the child concerned, the cultural background, ways to reintegrate the child into the community, rehabilitation and the family support are specific considerations which must be considered by the court. The nature and the seriousness of the offence, the child’s previous criminal history, the cultural background, and the pre-sentence report also require the court’s consideration under the provisions of the Act.
Legal representation in proceedings is therefore not mandatory, but, considering the short term and long term impacts an unfavorable decision may have on the child concerned, retaining a qualified and experienced lawyer is always in the best interests of the child. Go to our contact us page to get more information and advice.