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The Children's Court

The Western Australian Children’s Court deals with children between 10 and 18 who have been charged with criminal offences. The Children’s Court also deals with protection and care applications in respect of children and Restraining Order applications that involve children.

When a child attends the Children’s Court for a criminal matter, he or she must attend with a responsible adult, usually a parent. When the Children’s Court deals with criminal matters it follows the same procedures as the Magistrates Court. When a child is sentenced for criminal offences, this is done in a way that is appropriate to the age of the child and for the objective seriousness of the offence.

Criminal matters

The WA Children’s Court deals with young offenders in accordance with the Young Offenders Act 1994. Children under 10 cannot be charged with a criminal offence in any part of Australia. If the young person is charged with criminal offences whilst under the age of 18, but turns 18 before the matter is finalised, they will be dealt with by the Children’s Court as they were a juvenile when the offence allegedly occurred.

The Young Offenders Act provides that the Children’s Court must deal with a young person in a way that:

  • Ensures they are treated fairly;
  • Protects the community;
  • Allows victims to be involved in the process;
  • Encourages and supports parents and other responsible adults to fulfil their responsibilities;
  • Considers measures other than judicial proceedings;
  • Detains the young person only as a last resort;
  • Assists the child to develop a sense of responsibility;
  • Takes the age, maturity and cultural background of the child into account;
  • Strengthens the family group of the child;
  • Takes into account the child’s sense of time.

If a young person is found guilty of an offence, the Children’s Court will make appropriate sentencing orders. These may include a good behaviour bond, a fine, community-based order or a custodial sentence.

Care and protection

If the Department of Communities believes that a child is in need of protection, it can make an application for a Protection Order in respect of the child under the Children and Community Services Act 2004. 

A parent of a child who is the subject of a Protection Order application by the Department, or another person with a material interest in the child’s wellbeing, can file a Response to the Department’s Application. This can be prepared by the parent or other person themself or by a lawyer on their behalf. 

The Children’s Court will determine whether the child who is the subject of the application is in need of protection. If it considers that a Protection Order needs to be made, it will decide on the period of time for which the order needs to be in force.

Restraining orders

If either the protected person or the respondent in a Restraining Order Application is under 18, the application will be heard in the Children’s Court. If the child is the protected person in a restraining order application, a parent or guardian may lodge the application on the child’s behalf.

Under the Restraining Orders Act 1997, a restraining order cannot be made against a respondent who is younger than 10. A restraining order can be made by the Children’s Court against a child aged between 10 and 18. However it must be for a duration of no longer than six months.

There are three types of restraining orders in Western Australia. 

Misconduct Restraining Orders

A Misconduct Restraining Order (MRO) restrains a person from behaving in a manner that is offensive or intimidating towards the protected person, from causing damage to their property or causing a breach of the peace.

Violence Restraining Orders

A Violence Restraining Order (VRO) restrains a person who is likely to commit a violent offence against the Protected Person or to behave in a manner that causes the protected person to fear that they will do so.

Family Violence Restraining Orders

A Family Violence Restraining Order (FVRO) restrains someone who has committed family violence against the protected person and is likely to do again.

If you require legal advice in relation to a Children’s Court matter or any other legal matter, 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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