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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 - www.lawstuff.org.au/lawmail

 

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 10 years old or older, but younger than 14, you can be charged with a criminal offence, but only if the police can prove that you knew what you did was wrong when you did it.

If you are 14 years old or older, but younger than 18, you can be charged with a criminal offence if you break the law.

If you commit a crime that the police officer does not think is very serious and if you admit that you did it, the police officer might just give you a warning and let you go without recording anything.

If the police officer thinks the crime is more serious and if you admit that you did it, the police officer might want to record your admission or ask you to attend a community conference and make you promise to do things like apologise to the victim. 

A community conference is run by a person called a facilitator, and will involve you, the police officer, and whoever else the facilitator invites, like the victim. The facilitator will warn you about offending again, and will try to get everyone there to agree on how you should be punished.

You will only have to go to court if you deny committing the offence, if you ask to go to court, or if it is a serious crime.

If you are 10 years old or older and you get in trouble with the police, send us a Lawmail or try calling one of these legal centres.

Will I get a criminal record?

Whether or not you get a criminal record will depend on things like what you did, how old you are and if you have been in trouble with the police before. 

To get a criminal record, you need to be charged with and convicted of a criminal offence, and this conviction needs to be recorded against you.  This will usually only happen if you are told to go to court, and if the court finds you guilty of the offence and sentences you to detention.

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

Which court will I go to?

You will probably go to the Youth Justice Division of the Magistrate’s Court, which is a special division only for children and young people under 18 years old.  

However, if you are 15 years or older and you are charged together with another person who is 18 or over, you might have to go to a normal adult court.

The Youth Justice Division of the Magistrate’s Court is a closed court, which means that the public are not allowed to watch proceedings in that Court.

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