Sentencing in the Children’s Court (Tas)
Most criminal charges against juveniles are dealt with in the Children’s Court. When the Children’s Court sentences a young person for offences, it does so under the Youth Justice Act 1997. There is a range of penalties that the court can impose under that act, including fines and terms of detention. This page deals with sentencing options in the Children’s Court of Tasmania.
Principles of youth justice
When the Children’s Court is deciding what sentence to impose on a young person, it is guided by the following principles:
- That the youth should be dealt with in a way that encourages them to take responsibility for their actions
- That the youth is not to be treated more severely than an adult would be
- That the community is to be protected from illegal behaviour
- That the victim is to be given the opportunity to participate
- That the youth’s guardians should be supported to care for and supervise the youth
- That the guardians should be involved in determining the appropriate sentence where allowed under the Act
- That detention is a last resort
- That the sentence should encourage the youth to develop a sense of social responsibility
- That the sentence should be appropriate to the age and maturity of the youth
- That the sentence should be appropriate to the previous offending history of the youth
These principles are set out in section 5 of the Youth Justice Act 1997.
Good behaviour undertakings
Under section 51 of the Youth Justice Act 1997, the court can sentence a young person to an undertaking to be of good behaviour for a period of up to six months. This is the most lenient sentencing option available in the Children’s Court and is generally imposed for a youth’s first offence or for very minor offending.
Release and adjournment
Under section 54 of the Youth Justice Act 1997, the court may deal with an offence by making a release and adjournment order. When this occurs, the matter is then adjourned for up to 12 months and conditions may be imposed. If the young person complies with the conditions of the order, the matter is discharged when the order expires.
If the young person breaches the conditions of a release and adjournment order, the court may:
- continue the order as it is
- extend the order
- vary the conditions of the order
- revoke the order and impose another sentence.
A young person may also be sentenced to a fine. However, the court will consider the young person’s financial circumstances before imposing a fine.
The maximum amount that a person under 17 can be fined are as follows:
- For a young person who is under 15, two penalty units for a single offence or fine penalty units for two or more offences
- For a young person who is 15 or 16, five penalty units for a single offence or 10 penalty units for two or more offences
Or the maximum fine for the offence (whichever is less).
A probation order is a supervised order that requires a young person to report to a youth justice worker and obey their lawful and reasonable instructions for a specified period.
A young person on a probation order must not leave the state without permission and must not commit a further offence during the period of the order. The order may also include conditions such as that the young person must attend school, that they must attend specified programs, that they must abstain from alcohol or that they must abide by a curfew.
If a probation order is breached, the court may:
- Continue the order as it is
- Extend the order
- Vary the conditions of the order
- Revoke the order and impose another sentence.
Community service orders
A community service order is a sentence that requires a young person to perform a specified number of hours of unpaid community work within a specified period. The young person must comply with the reasonable directions of their youth justice worker during this period and may be subject to other conditions for the period of the order.
If a young person breaches a community service order, the court may vary or extend the order, increase the number of community service hours, amend the conditions of the order, or revoke the order and impose another sentence.
If the court is satisfied that no other sentence is appropriate in the circumstances, it may sentence a young person to a term of detention of up to two years. Youth detention in Tasmania is served in the Ashley Youth Detention Centre in Deloraine.
A term of detention may be wholly or partly suspended. When a young person is serving a suspended term of detention, they are allowed to live in the community subject to conditions and are not required to serve the suspended term of detention unless they breach those conditions.
Supreme Court matters
When a young person is charged with a strictly indictable offence such as murder or treason, the matter is dealt with in the Supreme Court. The matter will go through a committal proceeding in the Children’s Court before it is transferred to the higher court for finalisation.
The Supreme Court may sentence a young person either under the Youth Justice Act 1997 or under the Sentencing Act 1997.
If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Go To Court Lawyers.