Children’s rights in relation to police questioning, arrest and interrogation, criminal responsibility, court and criminal proceedings are dealt with under Youth Justice.
Civil Court Proceedings
A person under 18 (a minor) cannot sue another person in a civil action without a ‘next friend’. This is an adult whose name appears on the court documents and who guarantees to pay costs if they are ordered against the minor. If a person under 18 is sued, the defence must name an adult (usually a parent) as a next friend.
If a person under 18 is suing and wants to settle out of court, the settlement must be approved by the court. For example, a 16 year old injured in a car accident may sue to recover damages for those injuries. In almost all such cases, negotiations will take place before the case actually goes to court and an agreement may be reached on the amount of damages to be paid. The agreed damages must be approved by the court, whether or not a statement of claim has been issued (‘infants compromise’).
If a person under 18 recovers damages (for example, for injuries) the money must (unless the court orders otherwise) be paid to the Public Trustee to be held in trust for the child until they reach the age of majority at 18 years of age. Payments can be advanced for education or for other reasons which the Public Trustee finds are in the minor’s interest.
Any court document must be served on the person under 18 by serving it on their parent or guardian, or the person with whom the child resides. Notwithstanding this rule, a court may determine that service in a particular case on a child is effective.
Evidence in Court
In all courts, a child may give evidence on oath if they can understand the nature and consequences of the oath. Children are not under any disability in giving evidence before a court, and a judge cannot give a warning that evidence from children is unreliable. However, a judge can give a warning if a particular child’s evidence may be unreliable and the reasons why.
Page last updated 27/02/2022