If a child is jointly charged with an adult, the youth court will have no jurisdiction and the child’s case will be heard by a magistrate’s court.1
However, where the crime concerns aiding or abetting, or where the adult and child are charged with offences ‘arising out of circumstances which are the same as or connected with’ each other, both the magistrates court and the youth court have the jurisdiction to deal with the child’s first appearance.2
Interests of justice
The court will have to decide whether it is in the interests of justice for the child to have a joint trial with the adult or a separate trial in the youth court. Example of factors to be considered include:
- whether separate trials will cause injustice to witnesses or to the case as a whole
- the younger the youth, the greater the desirability that the youth be tried in the youth court;
- a substantial gap in age militates in favour of the youth being tried in the youth court;
- the lack of maturity of the youth;
- the relative culpability of the youth compared with the adult;
- the lack of previous convictions on the part of the youth.
If the court decides a case should be heard as a joint trail in an adult court, modifications should be made to accommodate the child.
It is possible to apply for severance so there is a separate trial for the child. The court should consider this if it is satisfied that a fair trial cannot be achieved by use of appropriate special measures or other support for the defendant.1 A severance application might be appropriate in cases concerning trafficking for example.