Going to court with your child
Magistrates believe it’s very important for a parent or guardian to attend court with their child.
If you don’t attend your child’s court hearing, the court can adjourn to ensure you know about it. The court can order you to attend and fine you if you don’t.
If the court hears your child’s case without you, you can ask to have it heard again when you’re in the room.
If you cannot get to court yourself, the court may advise you to seek assistance from Youth Justice.
At the court
When you get to court, go to the Court Registry desk to let them know you’ve arrived. A youth justice officer will introduce themselves to you.
The lawyer may want to speak with your child alone because information between a lawyer and their client is confidential. They may also want to speak with you.
Getting free legal help
All young people appearing before the court should be legally represented. The court can adjourn matters if you do not have a legal representative. If you have not already arranged a lawyer, a duty lawyer is available to your child at most courts. There’s no fee for a duty lawyer but you might have to wait a while, as they can get very busy. Free legal support is also available through Youth Legal Aid.
The lawyer talks to your child about whether to plead guilty, seek an adjournment (i.e. postpone for another day) or plead not guilty and go to trial.
It is your child’s decision whether to plead guilty or not guilty. The lawyer does what your child asks them.
Youth justice interview
While you are waiting to go into court, someone from the government's Youth Justice Services may interview you and your child. The information they get from you may be used to help the court decide on an appropriate sentence.
If your child is pleading guilty, the Youth Justice officer may speak to you both about the offence and why it might have happened.
Going into court
Once your child’s lawyer has all the information they need and the magistrate is ready, your child is called into court with you.
The magistrate sits up the front and you sit at the back. Your child sits at a table in front of the magistrate with their lawyer, the youth justice officer and the police prosecutor.
Your child’s lawyer speaks to the magistrate on your child’s behalf. The magistrate may ask you or your child some questions, or ask if there’s anything you want to say.
Everyone who attends a courtroom must follow certain rules and manners.
- If you’re asked to address the magistrate, call them ‘Your Honour’.
- Stand up when the magistrate enters or leaves the room (watch the clerk that sits with the magistrate, they will tell you when to stand).
- If you have to leave or enter the room while the court is in session, stop at the doorway and give a small bow towards the magistrate.
- Sit quietly. If you don’t understand something, quietly ask your child’s lawyer to explain it to you.
- Don’t eat, drink or chew gum.
- Turn off your mobile phone.
Other people in court
The Childrens Court will be a closed court (i.e. only certain people are allowed to attend).
When you and your child are in court with a magistrate, the only other people allowed in are:
- the victim or a representative of the victim
- witnesses who are asked to come and give evidence
- the police prosecutor
- your child’s lawyer
- a youth justice officer
- someone from an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander welfare agency if your child is an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person
- an infant or young child who is in the care of an adult in the courtroom.
The magistrate might also allow some other people, such as:
- another support person, such as a youth worker
- a student doing research or work experience
- journalists (though the media can’t report any information that might identify your child, otherwise they can be fined or sent to prison).
If your child’s case is heard in the District or Supreme Court, anyone can sit in and listen. The same rules still apply to journalists unless the court gives them permission to publish certain information.
The magistrate’s decision
After hearing all the information, the magistrate can make a ruling or decision. If your child pleads guilty, they might be sentenced the same day.
Alternatively, the magistrate might ask for more information about your child. If they order a pre-sentence report, this can take at least 3 weeks.
Your child’s lawyer or the police prosecutor can also ask for more time before sentencing.
If your child pleads not guilty, or the magistrate decides the matter needs to go to a higher court, it can take months before the case is finished.
- Read about what happens after court
- Read more about the Childrens Court
- Find legal help for your child
- Find legal help for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
- Read about how to support someone going through court.
- Read about how you can help and support your child.