This section provides a summary of the Youth Courts matters.
- Jurisdiction of the Youth Courts
- Approach of the Youth Courts
- Multi-disciplinary team in the Youth Courts
- Types of cases in the Youth Courts
- Judicial Monitoring
The information provided below is general in nature and is not intended as legal advice. The Family Justice Courts (FJC) cannot provide legal advice or assist with drafting the contents of any document.
References to legislation:
- Children and Young Persons Act (CYPA)
The Children and Young Persons (Amendment) Bill has been passed by Parliament on 4 September 2019 amending the CYPA to provide better protection and rehabilitation for children and youths. With effect from 1 July 2020, the amendments that will take effect include:
- Raising of age limit for Child Protection cases from below 16 to below 18;
- Introduction of Enhanced Care and Protection orders; and
- Re-naming of Beyond Parental Control orders to Family Guidance orders.
Other amendments broadly consisting of rehabilitation-related amendments (including the raising of age limit for Youth Arrest cases from below 16 to below 18) will take effect at a later date.
- Jurisdiction of The Youth Courts
The Youth Courts are presided over by a District Judge or Magistrate, who is designated by the Chief Justice as a Judge of the Youth Courts, a change from the former regime where the Juvenile Court used to be presided over by a Magistrate.
Under the new regime, a Youth Court has the expanded powers of a District Court in the exercise of its criminal or quasi-criminal jurisdiction, including the power to order Reformative Training for youths found guilty of committing a criminal offence.
- Approach of the Youth Courts
The philosophy of the Youth Courts is that of Restorative Justice, which recognises the potential for change and reform in young offenders and delinquent youths. Restorative Justice seeks to re-integrate the young offender or delinquent youth back into their families and community, as well as balance the need for effective deterrence versus the need for rehabilitation and restoration.
The Youth Courts place the welfare and best interests of the youth as the first and paramount consideration. Emphasis is placed on identifying and preventing crime, delinquency and abuse through early intervention, assistance and care. There is also protection for youths facing parental neglect. The Youth Courts also take into account the welfare of the youths and in suitable cases, will order them to be removed from undesirable surroundings and make provision for their education and training.
The Youth Courts work in close collaboration with various agencies, stakeholders and professionals such as the Ministry of Education (MOE), Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), social workers, psychologist and counsellors. The Youth Courts will also issue appropriate orders that will bring about a more sustained change for the betterment of families, including ordering relevant parties in the family of the affected children or youths to undergo mediation or counselling, or to participate in family support programmes or activities that have been put in place by relevant organisations such as the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF).
Multi-Disciplinary Team in the Youth Courts
A Judge of a Youth Court sits with two members of the Panel of Advisers to the Youth Court (Panel Advisers) in Chambers discussion when presiding over a case concerning a child or young person. The Panel Advisers are individuals and professionals in the community with vast experience working with youths, and are appointed by the President on the recommendation of the MSF. The role of the Panel Advisers is to advise the Judge on the appropriate orders to pass for the child or young person.
Court Family Specialists from the Counselling and Psychological Services (CAPS) undertake a unique hybrid role in the Youth Courts. The Court Family Specialists participate in Chambers discussion and provide expertise in psycho-legal and social science issues relevant to the cases discussed. The Court Family Specialists also facilitate Family Conferences directed by the Judge for selected cases to address concerns relating to the child or young person and the family, as well as specific issues relevant to the rehabilitation and restoration of the youth to the community.
Under the CYPA, the Youth Courts essentially deal with three types of cases:
- Cases involving youths who commit offences (Youth Arrest cases);
- Cases involving youths who are in need of guidance (Family Guidance cases); and
- Cases involving the protection of children (Child Protection cases).
Under the framework of the Youth Courts, court processes have been strengthened and new and better practices have been put in place to provide for more effective early intervention measures for these cases.
Decisions of the Youth Courts are appealable to the Family Division of the High Court. Such appeals will be heard by the Judges of the Family Division of the High Court.
Court Reviews may be ordered for Youth Arrest cases or Family Guidance cases where there is considerable uncertainty as to how the youth will respond to the Court orders, for example, the youth and/or the family is expected to undergo major transitions in the coming months or because probation/supervision was granted despite the offences/behaviours being serious or risk factors being substantial so as to give the youth a chance to demonstrate positive change in behaviour.
Over and above regular Court Reviews, the Court may order the reviews for suitable cases to take the mode of “Progress Presentations Reviews” where the youth is required to make a presentation of his/her own progress on the date of the review in Court. The youth plays a more active role and has to take full ownership for the review of his/her own performance/behaviour.
Court Reviews may also be ordered for selected child protection cases to see if the child or young person involved is still in need of care and protection and/or whether the existing orders should continue, be varied/extended, or discharged.