If the person who is accused of committing the crime was less that 18 years old at the time of the offence, he or she will usually be dealt with through the juvenile justice system. This system recognises that some young people do hurt others and their property and should face consequences for their behaviour. It is acknowledged however, that they do not have the full legal responsibilities of an adult, and may still be in the process of learning about these responsibilites and how to exercise them. In South Australia youths are encouraged to start adult life without being limited by youthful errors.
However, the principle of restoration is an important one. This can be demonstrated through the Formal Caution and the Family Conference system.
Under the Youth Offenders Act 1993, Family Conferences are held, in certain circumstances, as a way of diverting young offenders from court where the offence is minor.
Family Conferences provide an opportunity for the young person, the victim of the offence, family, supporters and a police officer to discuss what has happened, how it has affected each person and how the offence will be dealt with. The conference is chaired by a Youth Justice Coordinator who encourages all participants to arrive, by consensus, at an appropriate outcome.
The Youth Justice System
An outcome may include agreement by the youth to pay compensation, apologise either in person or in writing, perform community service, participate in various programs or anything else that is considered appropriate under the circumstances. Victims are encouraged to contribute to discussions regarding suitable restitution for the harm caused, or how the harm should be made good.
Compliance with undertakings is monitored by the Youth Justice Coordinator, and you be informed of the outcome at the conclusion of the case.
Having you present at a conference can significantly affect a young person's understanding of the consequences of his or her offending behaviour. The process therefore encourages a young offender to take responsibility for that behaviour and participate in a process that is intended to be both restorative and healing for all participants.
Young offenders are also prosecuted in the Youth Court . Although the Youth Court deals with serious offences, there is no jury. It operates under similar law to other criminal courts but is required to act in ways to secure for youths who offend against the criminal law the care, correction and guidance necessary for their development into responsible and useful members of the community and the proper realisation of their potential.
The Youth Court is also a closed court - which means it is not open to the public - however, an exception is made for the victims of crime. For the range of sentences the Youth Court might impose view a chart on the juvenile justice system.
As a victim of crime allegedly committed by a young person, you should be treated in accordance with the declaration that governs treatment of victims and you should recieve the rights to which you are entitled.