Sentencing Young People (NSW)
When a young person is found guilty of a criminal offence in New South Wales, the court may impose one or more of a range of sentencing orders. This includes fines, community release orders and terms of detention. This page deals with sentencing young people in New South Wales.
When a young person is sentenced in the Children’s Court of New South Wales, this occurs under the Children (Criminal Proceedings) Act 1987. When an offender sentenced under this act, the sentencing principles that apply are different to those that apply when a court is sentencing an adult. When the person being sentenced is a young person, the paramount consideration is their rehabilitation into a productive and law-abiding member of the community.
When a young person is charged with a very serious offence such as murder, the Children’s Court cannot finalise the matter. Instead, it may commit the matter to a higher court for finalisation. When the District Court or Supreme Court sentences a young person, it may do so under the Children (Criminal Proceedings) Act 1987 or under the Crimes (Sentencing Procedures) Act 1999 depending on the situation.
When a young person is sentenced under the Crimes (Sentencing Procedures) Act 1999, they are likely to receive a harsher penalty.
Principles of sentencing for young people
When a court sentences a young person under the Children (Criminal Proceedings) Act 1987, it must apply the principles set out in that act. These include that a sentence imposed on a young person should hold the youth accountable while recognising that they require guidance and assistance. A sentence should be tailored to allow the young person’s education to continue uninterrupted wherever possible and should promote their reintegration into the community and the maintenance of their family ties.
The penalties that can be imposed under the Children (Criminal Proceedings) Act 1987 are set out in section 33 of the Act. Some of these are outlined below.
If a young person is found guilty of a very minor offence or if the circumstances are particularly mitigating, the court may choose to simply discharge the young person without penalty. When the court discharges a young offender, it may also issue a caution.
Good behaviour bonds
Although good behaviour bonds no longer exist for adults in New South Wales, they can still be imposed on young people. When a young person is sentenced to a good behaviour bond, they must agree to be of good behaviour for the term of the order and to appear before the court if called upon to do so.
A good behaviour bond may also involve other conditions such as:
- To perform community service work
- To make a payment, such as a fine or compensation.
A young person may be sentenced to a fine, but the court will first consider their ability to pay a fine and the potential impact of a fine on their rehabilitation.
A fine imposed on a young person must not exceed 10 penalty units.
A court may order a young person to carry out a specified number of hours of unpaid community service work under the Children (Community Service Orders) Act 1987.
The amount of community service work ordered must not be more than 100 hours for a person under 16. For a person over 16 it must not be more than:
- 100 hours for an offence that carries a maximum penalty of not more than six months imprisonment
- 200 hours for an offence that carries a maximum penalty of between six and 12 months imprisonment
- 250 hours for an offence that carries a maximum penalty of more than 12 months imprisonment
A young person may be sentenced to a period of probation of up to two years. An offender who is on probation lives at home subject to conditions and under the supervision of Community Corrections. The youth may be required to complete rehabilitation programs or undertake specified activities such as counselling or study as a condition of the order.
A court may sentence a young person to a term of detention only after if it has considered all other options and where no other sentencing option is appropriate in the circumstances.
A term of detention may be for a period of up to two years.
New South Wales has six youth justice centres where young people who have been remanded in detention or sentenced to detention are held.
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