The Western Australian legal process for juveniles is multifaceted, to be sure. All members of the justice team who work with children must have a ‘child-focused’ mindset, and consider the harm the victim suffered. The child alleged offender’s age also plays an important role.
By Western Australia’s definition, offenders between the ages of 10-17 can be charged under the WA Criminal Code. Latest statistics show that 2.3 per cent of WA young people (257,000) experienced some interaction with the Juvenile Justice Team.
The Top Three Offences Among Juveniles are:
- Acts intended to cause injury
- Unlawful entry with intent
Those who work with children and young people who commit these and other offences rely on the Young Offenders Act as they proceed with the case.
In part, the Act outlines general principles of juvenile justice. This Act emphasizes the legal approach in dealing with young offenders aged 10-17.
The Young Offender’s Act aims to encourage young offenders to accept responsibility for their conduct and provide a foundation for dealing with the therapeutic aspect of juvenile offending. Furthermore, the offender must be treated with fairness and no more severely than an adult in custody for committing the same offence.
The Act still seeks the protection of the community and encourages adults in the child’s life to take responsibility for supervising the child while educating them about correct behaviour.
There are considerations regarding the offender’s age and circumstances. A ten-year-old who stole snacks from the grocery store will not receive the same penalty as a 16-year-old who robbed a petrol station.
Further, the Act provides the police with a degree of flexibility regarding what actions they may choose to take after a juvenile commits a crime.
The Young Offender’s Act allows for offences to be divided into levels of severity, typically based on age and the crime. Rather than introducing an 11-year-old to the court system, police can exercise options, including a formal written warning or a referral to the Juvenile Justice Team.
What is a Juvenile Justice Team?
In Western Australia, the Juvenile Justice Team works in conjunction with the Courts, the juvenile has to agree to see the juvenile justice team. After receiving treatment from the team, a report will be produced, and considered at sentencing. The team’s purpose is to encourage young offenders to take responsibility for their actions and understand that they have consequences.
The criteria for acceptance into the Juvenile Justice Team program include:
- The offender must acknowledge they have committed an offence and agree to make reparations for their actions.
- A parent or responsible adult must take part in the program
The Juvenile Justice Team offers an effective approach to assisting juvenile offenders in rehabilitating. This will in turn allow the Court to consider the juvenile’s chances of re-offending in the future. the point of the team is to provide psychological counselling, treatment programs, and treatment needs. Anonymous actions will not go unpunished as the offender’s identity is revealed. The victim plays a part in determining appropriate consequences for the crime.
The offender can go forward with the program or opt out and return to the courts. Typically, juveniles stay in the program to complete their necessary actions. If an offender does not adhere to the agreed-upon plan, they are sent back to the courts.
Penalties in Children’s Court
If the offender cannot participate in the team’s program, they will go through the Children’s Court. The decision regarding what must happen now is made in court. There are various penalties the court may hand down. These include:
- A No Punishment Order – Even though found guilty, the court decides not to punish the offender. There are three types:
- No Punishment and No Consequences
- No Punishment but Conditions – Generally, the conditions involve promising not to take part in a behaviour
- No Punishment but Recognisance – The offender must not commit any crimes for at least one year. This may include adhering to a curfew and school attendance.
- Adjournment – The court can decide to wait for some time before sentencing. Typically, this gives the offender a chance to display good behaviour.
- Monetary Orders – The offender is ordered to pay fines or compensate their victims.
- Youth Community-Based Order – A strictly supervised program that may include attendance requirements, community work conditions, or supervision conditions
- Intensive Youth Supervision Order – A severely strict period where the offender must adhere to numerous conditions to avoid harsher consequences
- Custodial Sentence – When all other attempts to assist an offender fail, the court can order they be taken into custody and remanded to a juvenile detention centre.
Legal Rights for Juvenile Offenders
- The right to legal representation
- The right to confidentiality
- The right to remain silent
- The right that their records are kept private
- The right to involvement of their parent or legal guardian in the legal process
For more information, feel free to reach out to the legal experts at WN Legal. The skilled staff at WN Legal have decades of experience and understand the juvenile justice system.