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When can I be convicted of a criminal offence?

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 go to the Children’s Court?

The Children’s Court deals with most offences committed by young people.  If you are under 18 years when the offence was committed and are charged for that offence before you are 21, you will usually go before the Children’s Court.

Will I get a criminal record?

If you are under 16 and you plead guilty or are found guilty of an offence there will be no conviction recorded against you unless it was a serious offence.  This means that you will not usually get a criminal record for offences committed when you are under 16 and these offences cannot be taken into account if you appear in the adult courts when you are older.

If you are 16 or older and plead guilty or are found guilty of an offence which is not serious, the Children’s Court may decide to not record a conviction against you.

If a conviction is recorded against you in the Children’s Court, you can have that conviction wiped from your record after 3 years if you have not been in any more trouble during those 3 years.


Last updated June 2010

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