Are you a juvenile ?
all the questions you have wanted to ask but no one was listening

All information provided in these webpages are for general knowledge only. You must consult a lawyer before you rely or act on them.


Section 48 of the Children and Young Persons Act (Cap 38) (‘the Act’) provides that young person shall be tried in a juvenile court.

‘Young person’ is defined in s 42 of the Act and reads:

‘Young person’ means a person who … is … 14 years of age or upwards and under the age of 16 years.

The age of the offender is the age when he committed the offence. It means that if he were 15 years old when he committed the offence, he would be tried at a juvenile court notwithstanding than he was already 17 years old at the time of the trial.


Case study

In one case, a young offender was born on 29 July 1970. He was the youngest and the pet in the family with two brothers and six sisters. His father, who had been a side-walk barber in Syed Alwi Road, had recently died on 15 November 1989. He attended Mattar Primary School in Circuit Road, and when his family moved to Bedok, he went to Hong San Primary School. He was not interested in studies.

He fought with his physical education teacher and with a classmate. Because of these incidents, he stayed away from school and played truant. His family members did not know of this for some time as he would put on his school uniform and leave home everyday. After a time, he did not return home; he would stay in the void decks of Housing & Development Board (‘HDB’) estates. The members of his family would have to go and look for him and bring him home. Not without reason he was punished by his father, and one of his elder brothers. He had even been chained. He, however, claimed that he had a normal father-and-son relationship. He also bore no ill-will against his brother for disciplining him. He left school in primary six.

He had been a glue-sniffer. He started sniffing glue whilst at school. After he left school, he regularly sniffed glue. He said that he became addicted to it. He also swallowed Roche pills. During this period, he extorted money from students, shoplifted, and stole money from locked cars and stole birds from HDB flats for sale.

In September 1983, when he was 13 years old, he was arrested for theft of a motorcycle. He was sent by the juvenile court to the Boys’ Home for three years. After his release in June or July 1985, he worked for a while as an air-condition apprentice. In December 1986 he was arrested and charged in court for housebreaking and theft by night. This time he was sent to the young offenders’ section of Changi Prison and subsequently transferred to the reformative training centre from where he was released in May 1988.

Once an offender is 16 years old when he commits an offence, the punishment becomes tougher.

In Fay v Public Prosecutor, Fay was 18 years old when he committed vandalism by spraying paint from a spray paint can onto motor vehicles. Upon being convicted, he was sentenced to two months’ imprisonment and three strokes of the cane in respect of each charge.

The section dealing with the jurisdiction of the juvenile court is section 48 of the Children and Young Persons Act (Cap 38) (‘the Act’). It reads:

(1) Subject as hereinafter provided, no charge against a child or young person shall be heard by a court of summary jurisdiction which is not a Juvenile Court:

Provided that —

(a) where a child or young person is charged with an offence or offences triable only by the High Court, he shall be tried by the High Court;

(b) a charge made jointly against a child or young person and a person who has attained the age of 16 years shall be heard by a court of appropriate jurisdiction other than a Juvenile Court; or

(c) where in the course of any proceedings before any court of appropriate jurisdiction other than a Juvenile Court, it appears that the person to whom the proceedings relate is a child or young person, nothing in this section shall be construed as preventing the court, if it thinks fit to do so, from proceeding with the hearing and determination of the proceedings.

(2) A Juvenile Court shall have jurisdiction to try all offences which, but for subsection (1), would be triable only by a Magistrate’s Court or a District Court.