This chapter presents results of defendants finalised in the criminal jurisdiction of the Children's Courts during 2006-07. The criminal jurisdiction of the Children's Courts specifically deals with juvenile offenders charged with summary criminal offences, and in some states and territories those charged with indictable offences. The power of the Children's Court to hear serious criminal matters will vary across states and territories.
In all states and territories, children aged under 10 years cannot be charged with a criminal offence. The maximum age that defendants are considered a child or juvenile is under the age of 18 years in all states and territories, except for Queensland where defendants are considered adults if aged 17 years and over at the time the offence was committed. Note that the age of defendants in the Children's Courts data are based on age at finalisation in the courts, not age at the time of the alleged offence. Therefore, some defendants of adult age will be processed by the Children's Courts and included in the collection.
Children's Courts data presented here excludes cases such as bail reviews and applications to amend sentences or penalties which do not require the adjudication of charges. Also excluded are breach of bail or parole cases, appeal cases, tribunal matters and defendants for whom a bench warrant is issued but not executed.
Juvenile justice is a complex area that can involve a range of bodies such as police, courts, juvenile justice departments, legal advocates and young people and their families. A key feature of juvenile justice is the diversion of young people away from the formal criminal justice system. Not all young people who come into contact with the criminal justice authorities will appear in court. Police and other non-court agencies can divert juvenile offenders away from the courts by way of warnings, cautions, conferences, and other programs. The Children's Courts can also initiate programs as part of the court process by transferring defendants to drug and other specialist courts, or non-court agencies, and programs where defendants return to the Children's Court upon program completion. Some programs also utilise referral as a sentencing outcome. There are many differences in the types of court programs available in each state and territory (see Explanatory Notes paragraph 15), therefore caution should be taken when making comparisons between states and territories.
- There were 41,158 defendants finalised in the Children's Courts in 2006-07.
- Males accounted for 77% (31,709) of the total defendants finalised.
- The majority (82% or 33,786) of defendants were finalised via a guilty plea, guilty finding or an acquittal, while the remaining 18% (7,372) were finalised mainly through the withdrawal of charges by the prosecution or transfers to other courts or non-court agencies.
- Of those defendants who were charged, a large proportion (96%) were proven guilty, while the remainder (4%) were acquitted.
- For those defendants convicted, the majority were sentenced to non-custodial orders (92%).