About the Youth Court

Children and young people who are charged with an offence will generally be directed to the Youth Court. The Youth Court is a specialist division of the District Court, and operates in a less formal manner than the adult courts.

Most children and young people who allegedly commit offences will not come to the Youth Court, but will be subject to police alternative action and diversion – unless their alleged offending is particularly serious or repetitive.

On this page:

Introducing the Youth Court

In the video below, Principal Youth Court Judge John Walker explains how the Youth Court works, and why it's important that selected Youth Court decisions are published on this website.

What the Youth Court does

The Youth Court deals with all young people who are charged with an offence – other than murder, manslaughter, and traffic offences.

Young people aged between 14 and 18 who are charged with an offence (and sometimes aged 12 and 13 if their alleged offending is particularly serious) will be directed to a Youth Court rather than the District Court or High Court.

Note: 17-year-olds who are charged with serious offences (called “Schedule 1A” offences) will first appear in the Youth Court before being transferred to the District Court or High Court.

Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 – Schedule 1A, Specified offences for young persons aged 17 years

There's more information about the how the Youth Court operates on the Ministry of Justice Youth Court website.

Family Group Conferences

Children and young people will first appear in the physical court, at which time a Family Group Conference will be directed.

The Family Group Conference process is as follows:

  • The young person, their family, the victim, a youth justice coordinator, member(s) of the police, and any other relevant professionals meet to discuss:
    • the offending,
    • the effect this has had on all involved, and
    • a possible plan to address it.
  • The young person reports back to the Youth Court with this plan.
  • The Youth Court Judge will nearly always approve the plan.
  • The Court will oversee that the young person carries out the plan properly.

Options for serious offending

In cases of serious offending, the Youth Court can:

  • direct an offender to custody in a youth justice residence, or
  • direct that they be transferred to the District Court to consider a prison sentence.

Rangatahi and Pasifika Youth Courts

Rangatahi and Pasifika Courts apply the same law and procedure as any other Youth Court, but on a marae or in a Pasifika community setting. They incorporate Māori and Pacific languages and protocols.

To find out more, go to: Rangatahi and Pasifika Youth Courts

Attending Youth Court hearings

Youth Court hearings are closed to the public, except for media organisations.

No Youth Court decision may be published without the permission of the Judge, and no identifying details of the young person may ever be made public.

To find out more, go to: Media and Reporting Protocol in the Youth Court