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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. Please send us a Lawmail if you need specific information or advice -


You can be charged with a criminal offence once you are 10.

However, if you are between 10 and 14, you cannot be convicted (ie. found guilty) unless there is evidence which says that you knew what you did was wrong when you did it.

If you are aged 10 to 14 and you get in trouble with the police, you should get Legal advice as you may have a defence if you do not understand the consequences of what you did.

Will I get a criminal record?

A criminal record may affect your ability to get a job or travel overseas.

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. A criminal record will not be removed from your record when you turn 18.

Will I have to go to the Youth Court?

The Youth Court deals with criminal offences committed by young people between the ages of 10 and 18.

However, if you are under 18, you might be cautioned for a first or minor offence instead of being taken to court. This can be an informal caution by the police or a formal caution requiring parents to be involved. The police can only caution you if:

  • you admit to committing the offence, and
  • you agree to being cautioned.

No official record is kept of the caution.

If you have previously had a caution and the offence is not serious enough for you to be sent to the Youth Court, you will be dealt with at a Family Conference. You must admit to the offence and agree to attend the conference before a Family Conference can be held. A Family Conference is a meeting involving yourself, your family, a police youth officer, the victim of the offence and any other relevant people. The meeting will decide what penalty you will get for the offence. The penalty may be an apology, community service work or another penalty. If you do not agree with the decision, the matter can be referred to the Youth Court.


Last updated in 2009

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