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Information for the media

This page contains information to assist journalists covering the work of the Children's Court of Victoria.

Restrictions on Reporting Children's Court Matters

Section 523 of the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 provides that all Children's Court proceedings are to be conducted in open court unless the court decides otherwise.

The media can cover Children's Court cases provided the participants are not identified or identifiable. Section 534 of the Children, Youth and Families Act makes it an offence, except in very limited circumstances, to publish any picture or account of proceedings that would lead to the identification of a child or any other person involved in the case, including a witness, or the particular venue of the Children's Court in which the proceeding was heard. This section also prohibits the publication, except in special circumstances, of any material which is likely to identify a child as being the subject of a Children's Court order. These restrictions also apply to proceedings in any other court arising out of proceedings in the Children's Court.

Section 534 of the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005

Section 534(1) of the Act prohibits the publication of relevant particulars and images, unless the President has given permission for the publication, or a statutory exemption applies.

If a media organisation is seeking to publish information that falls, or may fall, within the scope of section 534(1), the media organisation should make an application to the Children’s Court in relation to proposed publication. Occasionally, the Children's Court may make an order under section 534 of the Children, Youth and Families Act allowing specific identifying material to be published by the media. These orders may be made, for example, when the Department of Health & Human Services is seeking the public's assistance in identifying the parents of an abandoned baby.

Section 534(1)(a) prohibits a person publishing or causing to be published a report of a proceeding in the Children’s Court (or a proceeding in any other court arising out of a proceeding in the Children’s Court) that contains any particulars likely to lead to the identification of:

  1. a venue of the Children’s Court, in which the proceeding was heard; or
  2. a child or other party to the proceeding; or
  3. a witness in the proceeding.

Section 534(1)(b) of the Act prohibits the publication of a picture as being or including a picture of a child or other party to, or witness in, a proceeding referred to in section 534(1)(a).

The former Director of Public Prosecutions previously confirmed his advice regarding the scope of section 534(1)(b) of the Act. The section may be breached by publication of pixelated or distorted or partial images. Further, the prohibition on the publication of images is broader than the prohibition on publication of particulars. Publication of images as being or including a child or other party or witness to a relevant proceeding is prohibited even if those images are not likely to lead to the identification of the person/s shown in those images.

Section 534(1)(c) of the Act prohibits the publication of any matter that contains any particulars likely to lead to the identification of a child as being the subject of an order made by the Children’s Court.

Section 534A of the Act

Section 534A was inserted into the Children, Youth and Families Act to provide for an additional exemption to the restriction on publication of proceedings contained in section 534(1) of the Act. 

Section 534A(1)(a) provides that the restriction on publication of proceedings does not apply to the publication of a report of a proceeding in the Criminal Division of the Children’s Court, or of a proceeding in any other court arising out of a proceeding in that Division, that contains particulars likely to lead to the identification of a witness in the proceeding, if the witness is:

  1. a victim or alleged victim; and
  2. 18 years or older at the time of publication.

Section 534A(1)(b) provides that the publication of a picture of a witness referred to in section 534A(1)(a) is also exempted from the restriction on publication.

Section 534A(2) provides that the exemption in section 534A(1) does not apply if the publication would be likely to lead to the identification of:

  1. a venue of the Children’s Court, in which the proceeding was heard; or
  2. a child or other party to the proceeding; or
  3. a witness in the proceeding, other than a witness referred to in section 534A(1)(a).

Compliance with the prohibition on publication

The Children’s Court emphasises the utmost importance of compliance with section 534 of the Children, Youth and Families Act, and the obligations of media organisations to ensure that they do not breach the non-publication provision.

Media Protocol - Access to Documents in the Criminal Division of the Children's Court

A protocol regarding media access to certain documents in criminal cases has been developed by the court.  Journalists may be required to file either an Application for Access form or an Application to Record form with the court.  These forms are available via the "Related Forms" menu on the right-hand side of this page.

Contact

Media & Communications
Children's Court of Victoria
Tel: (03) 8638 3346
Mob: 0407 330 395