The Youth Court is part of the District Court and deals mostly with people aged between 12 and 16 years old who have been charged by the police with breaking the law. The Youth Court has its own special Judges who are used to dealing with young people.
The Youth Court is closed to the public. Media can attend, but they must check with the Judge before publishing anything.
The Youth Court deals with criminal offending by children and young people that is too serious to be dealt with any other way. It hears all cases to do with young people, except murder and manslaughter, or when a young person chooses to have a jury trial, although even these cases begin in the Youth Court, with the Judge deciding if the case should go ahead.
The Youth Court appoints a youth advocate (lawyer) to help a child or young person who doesn't have a lawyer. The youth advocate will explain the charge and ask the child about what happened. He or she will then tell the child or young person what the options are, and the best way of dealing with the case. The youth advocate's job is to make sure that the court understands the child or young person's point of view and to help them take part in the court process.
The Youth Court may appoint a lay advocate to support the child or young person or their whÄnau/family group in court. Lay advocates are people with mana or standing in the young person's community. They make sure the court understands any cultural matters relating to the case.
A child or young person can only be charged in the Youth Court when they've been arrested or when a family group conference (FGC) has been held and the FGC recommends that a charge should be laid.
Youth Court hearings are less formal than an adult court, (for example, the child or young person is called by their first name) but it is still a court. The idea is that children and young people shouldn't be afraid to take part.
Rennie Cox solicitors do not appear in the Youth Court. If your child is facing a charge and is due to appear in the Youth Court, please talk to us about your best options for dealing with the matter.