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Sentencing Young People (NSW)

When a young person commits an offence in New South Wales, they are dealt with under the Youth Justice Act 1992 and the Children (Criminal Proceedings) Act 1987. Most offenders aged under 18 in New South Wales are dealt with by the Children’s Court. When the Children’s Court sentences a young person, there is a range of sentencing orders it can make including fines, community release orders and terms of detention. This page deals with the sentencing of young people in New South Wales.

Age of criminal liability

In New South Wales the age of criminal liability is currently 10. This means that a child who is 10 or older can be arrested or summoned to attend court and charged and prosecuted for a criminal offence.


If a young person is charged with a very serious indictable offence such as murder or manslaughter, the matter cannot be finalised in the Children’s Court. Instead, it will be committed to a higher court for finalisation.

When the District Court or the Supreme Court is sentencing a young person, it may do so under the Children (Criminal Proceedings) Act 1987 or under the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999.  Steeper penalties are available under the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999.

Less serious offences are finalised in the Children’s Court.

Principles for sentencing young people

When a court sentences a young person under the the Children (Criminal Proceedings) Act 1987, it must apply the principles set out in that act. The paramount consideration when sentencing a young person is their rehabilitation into a productive and law-abiding citizen. However, this principle must be balanced with other sentencing principles such as the need to protect the community from crime.

Sentences imposed on young offenders should hold the young person accountable while recognising that they require guidance and assistance. They should be tailored to allow the young person’s education to continue uninterrupted wherever possible and should promote their reintegration into the community and the maintenance of their family ties.

Section 33 of the Act sets out the penalties that can be imposed on a young offender.

Good behaviour bonds

A young person can be sentenced to a good behaviour bond for up to two years. Good behaviour bonds no longer exist as a sentencing option for adults in New South Wales. However, a young person can still be given a good behaviour bond.

A good behaviour bond requires a young person to be of good behaviour for a specified period. It may also have other conditions attached such as that the young person perform community work or pay compensation.


A young person may be given a fine of up to 10 penalty units. Before imposing a fine, the court must consider the young person’s financial position and the impact of the fine on their rehabilitation.


When the offending is more serious, a young person may be sentenced to probation for a period of up to two years.

The court may impose whatever conditions are appropriate for the term of a probation order. This may involve supervision by Juvenile Justice and additional conditions such as participation in specified programs or abiding by a curfew.

Community service

A young person may be sentenced to a community service order under the Children (Community Service orders) Act 1987. This is an order requiring the young person to carry out a specified number of hours of community work and abide by other conditions while the order is in force.

The number of community work hours imposed under a community service order must not be more than 100 hours, for a young person under 16. For a young person over 16, the number of hours must not be more than

  • 100 hours if the maximum penalty for the offence is not more than six months imprisonment
  • 200 hours, if the maximum penalty for the offence is more than six months imprisonment but not more than 12 months imprisonment
  • 250 hours, if the maximum penalty for the offence is more than 12 months imprisonment


A young person can be sentenced to a term of detention of up to two years. However, this must occur only when no other penalty is appropriate in the circumstances. New South Wales has six youth justice centres where young people are held both on remand and after being sentenced to detention.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal natter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

Fernanda Dahlstrom

This article was written by Fernanda Dahlstrom

Fernanda Dahlstrom has a Bachelor of Laws, a Bachelor of Arts and a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice. She has also completed a Master’s in Writing and Literature. Fernanda practised law for eight years, working in criminal defence, child protection and domestic violence law in the Northern Territory and in family law in Queensland.

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