Before the Youth Court

Community-based diversion process

Most young people who come into trouble with the law are dealt with by police without ever going to the Youth Court. This could mean receiving a police warning, or being referred to Police Youth Aid for what is called ‘Alternative Action’.

Alternative Action means the young person, their family and the Police decide on a plan to deal with the offending.

An Alternative Action plan might include:

  • paying for damage;
  • doing community work;
  • writing an apology letter;
  • attending counselling.

See the video at the bottom of the page to find out more about this process.

For more serious offending, the process will depend on the age of the child or young person:

  • Children aged 10-13 will usually be dealt with in the Family Court as part of proceedings about their care and protection.
  • Children aged 10-13 charged with very serious offences (such as those carrying a maximum penalty of at least 14 years in prison) will come before the Youth Court.
  • 14-16 year olds are dealt with through the Youth Court.
  • From July 2019, 17 year olds will also be dealt with in the Youth Court, unless they commit a serious offence such as aggravated robbery. In such cases they will be transferred to the District Court.

The jurisdiction of the Youth Court is set out in sections 272-280A of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989.

Family Group Conference (FGC)

Before a young person appears in the Youth Court, or while Police are deciding whether to charge the young person with an offence, they will hold a Family Group Conference (FGC). These are run by Oranga Tamariki and provide an opportunity for the young person, their whānau, their social worker, Youth Aid and the young person’s lawyer (a ‘Youth Advocate’) to talk through the options available. The victim of the offence may choose to be present. 

Watch the following video to find out more about this process: