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Sentencing by the Youth Court

After the court has established the guilt of a young offender, it may request a social background report from Youth Justice to assist in determining an appropriate sentence [see Young Offenders Act 1993 (SA) s 32].

This report will contain information on the social background and personal circumstances of the youth. It can also contain information relating to the offender’s awareness of victim impact issues. It can only be prepared once an offence against the youth has been admitted or proved. The report cannot contain any recommendation about sentence. Medical evidence can also be tendered to the court, for example, a psychiatric assessment of the youth. If these reports are to be taken into account by the court during sentencing then they should be made available to the youth, his/her parent and/or guardian and to the police prosecutor [see Young Offenders Act 1993 (SA) s 33].

In addition to the sanctions that can be imposed from a police caution or family conference, the Youth Court [Young Offenders Act 1993 (SA) ss 23-25] can sentence a youth to:

  • detention in a training centre for up to three years;
  • be subject to home detention for a period of up to 12 months or for periods not exceeding 12 months in total over two years or less, provided the accommodation is available and that the youth will be properly cared for there, and that adequate resources (including monitoring devices) are available for monitoring the youth while on home detention;
  • a period of community service work of up to 500 hours, to be completed within a period not exceeding 18 months;
  • pay a fine of up to $2500 for an offence;
  • licence disqualification: if the youth does not hold a current drivers licence, then the disqualification would prevent the youth from obtaining one.

The Youth Court can also order a youth to submit to obligations including supervision by Youth Justice, participation in a specified program, an obligation to carry out specified work or to reside at a specified address [see Young Offenders Act 1993 s 26]. If a youth fails to comply with a condition of their obligation he/she is guilty of an offence. The penalty for the breach is anywhere up to a $2500 fine or six months detention (or both) [see Young Offenders Act 1993 (SA) s 26].

The youth's parents may also have to ensure that the youth complies with the conditions of the undertaking and to take specific action to guard against further offending [Young Offenders Act 1993 (SA) s 27]. This is known as a supplementary undertaking.

A youth who is found guilty of murder must be sentenced to imprisonment for life [Young Offenders Act 1993 (SA) s 29(4)].

A youth who has been found guilty by the Supreme Court or District Court of any offence other than homicide may be sentenced in the same manner as an adult, or the Court may make any order that would be in accordance with how the Youth Court would sentence the youth, or send the matter back to the Youth Court for sentencing [see Young Offenders Act 1993 (SA) s 29(1)].

Where a youth asks to be tried in the Supreme Court or District Court, he or she cannot be sentenced as an adult unless the court is satisfied that this is warranted by the gravity of the offence or the youth's history of offending [see Young Offenders Act 1993 (SA) s 29(3)].

Under s 3(2a) of the Young Offenders Act 1993 (SA) the focus in sentencing a young offender is on the deterrent effect on the youth personally, not general deterrence, as is the case in the adult jurisdiction. However, where a youth is being dealt with as an adult the court may consider the general deterrent effect on other youths. In considering the need for general deterrence the court must also take into account the need to balance the protection of the community with the rehabilitation needs of the young offender [see s 3(2a)(b)].

Recidivist young offenders

Where a young offender has been convicted of at least three separate serious offences or at least two serious sexual offences against a person under the age of 14, they can be declared as a recidivist young offender [see Sentencing Act 2017 (SA) s 55 ]. Where such a declaration is made then heavier sentences can be imposed. There are also implications for conditional release (see Detention).

Sentencing by the Youth Court  :  Last Revised: Tue Feb 27th 2018
The content of the Law Handbook is made available as a public service for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. See Disclaimer for details. For free and confidential legal advice in South Australia call 1300 366 424.