You go to the Children’s Court if you are under the age of 18 at the time a crime was said to have been committed.
The Children’s Court has an aim to help young people to get back on track
The Children’s Court deals with all charges except murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, arson causing death, and culpable driving causing death.
Those cases start in the Children’s Court and have committal proceedings like in the Magistrates’ Court.
Children’s Court matters should be dealt with as seriously as adult matters and it is important to get advice as early in the proceedings as you can.
A brief explanation of the above terms follows. This is just to give you a general idea about the terms and flow of Children’s Court cases.
This is the first time that a matter is listed in the Children’s Court. On that date the matter can finish as a plea of guilty or be adjourned. If you are pleading not guilty the matter will be adjourned to a contest mention or straight to a contested hearing / plea of not guilty.
This is the second or subsequent listing of your matter in the Children’s Court. As with a first mention the matter can finish as a plea of guilty or be adjourned. If you are pleading not guilty, the matter will be adjourned to a contest mention or straight to a contested hearing / plea of not guilty.
A case conference is a step that involves discussing with the Prosecutor resolution of the charges. It is a discussion about whether a suitable plea can be organised.
A contest mention in the Children’s Court is a step that is used to resolve matters that are going to be a contested hearing / plea of not guilty. The informant is expected to attend as are you and your lawyer. Your lawyer will have read the police brief, got instructions from you about what you want to happen, and be able to advise the Magistrate what the issues in the case are.
The prosecutor and your lawyer will discuss whether the matter can be resolved before you get into Court. Charges are often withdrawn at contest mention as the Police may realise that they can not prove them or that what they are alleging did not happen.
The Magistrate will often give a sentence indication in a contest mention in the Children’s Court. This is where they will indicate to you what penalty you will get if you plead guilty at that stage and save the Court the further time of other hearings of your matter. You are in no way obliged to plead guilty and the Magistrate who hears the contest mention is not meant to hear the contested hearing.
Often the Magistrate will give a common sense evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of the evidence against you.
At this stage your lawyer will indicate how many witnesses will be called (if any) and whether you are disputing specific pieces of police evidence, such as a record of the interview the Police had with you.
If the matter resolved to a plea of guilty it will either be heard on that same day or adjourned off to another date if you need to provide reports or references etc.
If the matter does not resolve at contest mention it then goes to what is called a contested hearing or a plea of not guilty to be heard at a later date in the Children’s Court.
All these terms mean the same thing. They are essentially the same process as a trial is in the higher courts. Witnesses can be called by prosecution and defence, they tell their version of events and then a decision is made as to whether the charges have been proved against you. In the Magistrates’ Court there are no juries and so the matter is decided by a Magistrate.
If the Magistrate finds you not guilty there is a discretion to award you payment of your costs. It is not something that you should rely on as happening as there are a number of factors that a Magistrate can take into account to not order payment of your costs.
Guilty plea in the Children’s Court
Is where a plea of guilty is entered and then submissions are made on your behalf by your lawyer. Obviously the more positive things that can be put on your behalf the better result you will get. It is important to get character references from your work and references from people who know you well and can talk about your positive characteristics.
Appeal from the Children’s Court
If you or your lawyers think the decision against you was wrong or too harsh, you can appeal from the Children’s Court to the County Court.
You have 30 days from the date of the Magistrate making a final sentencing order against you to file an appeal. If you are late in filing an appeal, you can put yourself in a position where your appeal will not be heard.
You must fill out the paperwork at the Children’s Court for an appeal.