Will My Criminal Charge Be Heard In The Children’s Court Of The Adult Court?

There has been a recent case in the media in which it is alleged that a 17-year-old accused broke into someone’s house and assaulted the occupant. The occupant ultimately died from the injuries of the alleged assault, and at the time of death, the accused had already turned 18 years old. You can read more about this case here: 


There has been an interesting legal jurisdiction question raised as to whether the accused’s legal matter should be heard in the Children’s Court, as he was 17 years old when the alleged assault occurred, or whether he should be heard in the adult court as he was 18 years old when the occupant died from injuries caused by the alleged assault. The legal question raised in this case is whether the “offence” occurred when the accused was a child or an adult.

In Western Australia, the Children’s Court deals with accused people who were under the age of 18 years when the alleged crime was committed. That means that children who are charged with criminal offences will be dealt with in the Children’s Court, as well as adults who are charged with having committed offences when they were younger.

Children as young as 10 years old can currently be arrested and charged and held in custody. This is called the age of criminal responsibility. If an accused child is between 10 years old and 14 years old, the police must prove in court that the child understood that their behaviour was wrong. A child over 14 years old can be held responsible for breaking the law, even if the child did not necessarily understand that what they were doing is wrong. You may have seen some discussion recently about calls to change the law to increase the age of criminal responsibility to 14. 

Proceedings in the Children’s Court run similarly to that in adult court, in that there is a prosecutor who represents the State and a Magistrate who hears the case. In more serious cases, the case may be heard before the President of the Children’s Court, who is able to impose more serious penalties.

Trials in the Children’s Court are heard by a Magistrate or the President. There is no jury. There is an allowance, however, for an accused person to elect for their trial to be heard in the District Court with a jury. In some cases, there may be good reasons for preferring a jury to determine your case depending on the subject matter and the issues that need to be decided.

The other thing to bear in mind is that the sentencing options differ in the Children’s Court. There are more options for sentencing available in the Children’s Court, and a lot more sentences aim for rehabilitation rather than punishment. 

We eagerly await the outcome of the legal argument as to whether the accused person’s criminal charge will be dealt with in the Children’s Court or the adult court. This could set an interesting precedent for future cases.

If you require any legal advice or representation for your Children’s Court or adult court criminal charge, we are available for consultation and representation.


© 2018 Chambers Legal Pty Ltd. All Rights Reserved.   Designed By Between Elements