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When can I be convicted of a criminal offence?

Note this page was last reviewed in 2009 and may not be current.

You cannot be charged with a criminal offence until you are 10 years old. Children under 10 are not seen as mature enough to commit criminal offences.

If you are between 10 and 14 years you may be responsible for offences you commit. 

If you are charged with a crime at this age it must be proved in court that you knew what you did was ‘seriously wrong’ at the time you did it, and not just ‘naughty’. 

Any young person aged 10 to 14 who gets in trouble with the police should get legal advice, as they may have a defence if they did not fully understand the consequences of what they did.

Once you turn 14 you will be responsible for any offence that you commit.

Will I get a criminal record?

Whether you get a criminal record or not depends on whether a conviction is recorded against you.

A Court may give you a penalty without recording a conviction. It is up to the Court to decide whether you will get a criminal record or not.

The Court will take into account the seriousness of the offence, your age and maturity, your health and other factors when it decides whether to record a conviction against you or not.

Will I have to go to the Children's Court?

If you were under 18 at the time of the offence, (so long as the offence is not one which can be punished by life imprisonment), you will go to the Children's Court.

If you are more than 18 and a half years old when you first come to court for the charge, you will be dealt with by the Magistrates Court, which deals with adult offenders.

If you are over 18 at the time you are sentenced for the offence you will be sentenced as an adult.

Proceedings in the Children's Court are not open to the public.


Last updated 2009

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