15. Juvenile Offenders

15.1   It is a longstanding legal requirement that in prosecuting juveniles the court must give priority to their welfare. Special procedural provisions apply to persons under the age of 16 years and, so far as possible, the hearing of such cases should be expedited and prosecuted in the Juvenile Court.

15.2   Consequently, the prosecution often prefers to deal with allegations against juveniles by alternative methods to criminal prosecution, unless the seriousness of the offence or other circumstances require a prosecution in the public interest.

15.3   It would be an abuse of process to prosecute a juvenile solely for the purpose of securing access to the welfare powers of the court. If there appear to be grounds for care proceedings and that course may better serve the general public interest, the prosecutor should invite investigators to consider appropriate referral.

15.4   In deciding if the public interest warrants the prosecution of a juvenile, emphasis should be placed on the following considerations:

  1. the seriousness of the alleged offence;
  2. the juvenile’s antecedents;
  3. the age, capacity and apparent mental and physical maturity of the juvenile;
  4. the support of family and others available to the juvenile;
  5. the schooling or employment arrangements in place at the time;
  6. the sentencing options available to the court;
  7. the availability and efficacy of alternatives to prosecution, such as cautioning.