If a child commits a crime before the age of 10, their parents/guardians can be fined and they may have to do community service or attend correctional classes. If the child continues to offend, a government official ‘nanny’ can be sent to live in the household, to help around the house, care for the child and ensure they obey the law. However, children under ten can not be sent to juvenile detention centers.
If a child under 10 commits a crime, they must be proven in court that they knew what they were doing when they did it. If the crime is an infraction they can choose not to do this and accept the consequences instead. The court hearing must be friendly and positive.
They face either
- A fine towards the guardians and a warning to the child for infractions — eg. trespass, walking an unleashed dog, littering
- Community service for misdemeanors — eg. theft, vandalism, destruction of property
- Guardians must attend parenting classes and the child is sent to correctional classes for felonies — eg. animal cruelty, murder
- For repeated offenses, a government official ‘nanny’ is sent to live with/visit daily and take care of the child (and help the guardians) for an amount of time
Crimes do not go on the offenders’ record, unless they are a misdemeanor or higher and repeated more than twice with less than three years apart.
Reasons for this
Children are greatly impacted by their environment and the way they are brought up. Studies have shown the way a child is raised has extreme impacts on their personality, mental health, and how they behave. This is why parents/guardians should take partial of the responsibility, for not teaching the child it is wrong, during a time when the guardian is the child’s highest influence.
Additionally, being punished harshly or being separated from society in juvenile detention centers, with other offenders, has been shown to make children more likely to rebel and commit crimes in the future. The earlier a child enters the justice system, the more likely they are to have repeat interactions with it. It isolates children from the rest of the world when they are still learning how to be a part of it, not giving them a chance to improve and show they have learnt to be better.
However, if those interactions with the justice system were positive, the child would learn and have support rather than be damaged. (This follows the idea that support is better than fear when it comes to teaching/ruling/parenting.) The Royal Commission into Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory found that the NT youth detention system was likely to leave many children and young people more damaged when they leave than when they entered the system. By sending a child to correctional classes they can learn why what they did was wrong, to stop them repeating their behavior in the future, while still maintaining a relationship with their family and a connection to the outside world.