Children in the Criminal Justice System: the High Court Cases of GW and RP
In two decisions handed down in 2016, the High Court of Australia considered legal measures designed to deal with children in the criminal justice system in an age-appropriate manner. The first case, The Queen v GW, was a prosecution appeal involving the unsworn evidence of a child witness. In this decision, the High Court reviewed the common law and statutory background to unsworn evidence, and gave important guidance on the proper approach to dealing with such evidence in proceedings. The second case was RP v The Queen, which involved the criminal responsibility of a child defendant, and in particular the application of the doli incapax presumption. In this decision, the High Court reviewed the common law background to doli incapax, and gave guidance on its application in criminal proceedings. This commentary discusses both cases and the principles underlying the High Court’s reasoning.
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