fbpx
 

Youth Crime: How Does The Law Respond?

, Youth Crime: How Does The Law Respond?

Youth Crime: How Does The Law Respond?

TODAY’S STORY

Earlier this month, Police allege a series of robberies took place in Sydney’s Northwest involving three youths who have been charged with a number of offences. The boys, who’s ages are 9, 11 and 12 respectively, have been charged with robbery in company, common assault, shoplifting, affray and stealing from a person at a value less than $2,000.00. The crimes are alleged to have occurred on February 7, 21 and 22 this year with the arrests said to have been made on the 22nd.

WHAT DOES THE LAW SAY?

Although the alleged crimes are bound to shock many members of the community, youth crime is dealt with quite differently by our Court system. In one of our earlier blogs, we discussed the legal principle known as doli incapax. This term is Latin for “incapable of evil” and posits that a child under the age of 10 cannot be held criminally responsible for the commission of any offence. The principle is derived from the understanding that most crimes require a “mental element” in order to find moral culpability and guilt.

Whilst two of the accused in today’s story are over the age of 10, criminal responsibility for children aged between 10-14 will be determined by the Children’s Court of New South Wales. Regardless of this fact, if a child aged between 10-14 commits an offence, they can still be formally charged, however with the assistance of a seasoned lawyer can raise doli incapax to defend the charges.

Should a child aged 10-14 be formally charged with a criminal offence, the prosecution must prove that the youth “knew what they did was seriously wrong”. Generally, this will require an assessments of the child’s mental capability to understand the moral consequences of their actions.

The law understands the lasting consequences of charging a child with a criminal offence. For this reason, children tried in the Children’s Court are afforded the highest protection in terms of privacy. So whilst you may have heard details about the arrests of these children in the media, you are unlikely to learn the outcome of their matter.

WHAT HAPPENS IF A CHILD IS AGED 14 OR OLDER?

In Australia, minors are considered to be children if they have not yet attained the age of 18. In New South Wales, children who are formally charged with a criminal offence will be dealt with under the Children’s (Criminal Proceedings) Act 1987. The law provides for various protections when a child has been formally charged with a criminal offence.

Some of the protections offered by Children’s (Criminal Proceedings) Act 1987 includes:

  • Children are taken into custody as a last resort;
  • Children should not be handcuffed unless in extreme circumstances which involve violent crimes; and
  • Children cannot be questioned or interviewed by police without the presence of a support person or an adult caregiver/guardian (R v CortezNSWSC)

Should your child be arrested and handcuffed, speak to one of our specialist criminal lawyers immediately. It is our advice that children should not be questioned by police without the assistance of a lawyer.

 

HOW OFTEN ARE CHILDREN FORMALLY CHARGED AND CONVICTED?

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there were 17,7170 youth offenders between 2019-2020 which comprises of approximately 15% of the total offenders in New South Wales. Convicted within the age range of 10-17, most youth offenders were charged with fare evasion and assault related charges. Whilst these offences are not considered to be particularly serious in most circumstances, the prospect of any criminal conviction for a child could have long-term repercussions on their future employment prospects and social development.

RAISING THE MINIMUM AGE FOR CRIMINAL CULPABILITY

As noted above, the minimum age for criminal responsibility is at age 10. When a child commits a criminal offence between the ages of 10-14, the prospect of criminal conviction is still a possibility. Whilst this is the case for all Australian States and Territories, the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) has introduced legislation which has effectively raised the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 14. What this means is that any child under the age of 14 who has committed an offence cannot be found criminally culpable for the offence.  This is in stark contrast to the legislation in New South Wales which may find a child in between the ages of 10-14 guilty of an offence if the principle of doli incapax can be rebutted by evidence that the child was aware of the seriousness of their offence.

WHY YOU NEED SPECALIST CRIMINAL LAWYERS

Whenever a person is faced with the possibility of criminal conviction, it is always a responsible course of action to retain specialist criminal defence lawyers to advocate and defend your interests. The need for a competent and experienced criminal defence lawyer is all the more important when the accused is a minor and faces real consequences in relation to their mental and cognitive health. If you’re a parent or caregiver tasked with the protection of a child who has been formally charged with a criminal offence, our team at National Criminal Lawyers® are experienced in Children’s Court matters and can offer expert legal advice on any charges. To arrange a meeting with one of our lawyers at our Parramatta, Blacktown, Sydney City, Bankstown or Wollongong offices click here to book an initial consultation.

Book your first free appointment with National Criminal lawyers now.
CONTACT US! 02 9893 1889

Book Appointment

  • Date Format: MM slash DD slash YYYY
  • :