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Youth Justice System

Who is covered by the Act?

What crimes are covered by the YOA?


The law in New South Wales has a special system to deal with young people who have committed crimes.   This law is called the Young Offenders Act 1997 (‘the YOA).  The YOA provides alternatives to going to court if you have broken the law.   Some of the alternatives include:

  • warnings
  • formal cautions and
  • youth justice conferences.

To be able to get one of these alternatives, your parents will be involved, and you will have to admit what you’ve done and take responsibility for it.    In some cases, you may also have to talk to the person who you’ve harmed and apologise.   

The YOA says that you should be given the least restrictive punishment that’s appropriate in the circumstances.The law also says that you should only have to go to court as a last resort.   

It also seeks to reduce the disproportionate involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the criminal justice system .

Who is covered by the Act?

The YOA covers young people aged between 10 and 17 years at the time when they allegedly broke the law.


What crimes are covered by the YOA?

Not all crimes are covered by the YOA.  Some crimes that are covered by the YOA, caution or referral to a youth justice conference for include:

  • Shoplifting;
  • Offensive language;
  • Causing damage to property;  
  •  Having or drinking alcohol in a public place;  and
  • Breaking and entering into a house and stealing (worth $60,000 or less) .

 Crimes not covered by the Act include:

  • traffic offences (so anything to do with driving a car, like speeding or drinking);
  • sexual offences;
  • stalking/intimidation offences, or breaches of an apprehended violence order;
  • if someone has died as a result of the crime;  and
  • most drug offences, except for possession of very small amounts.

These crimes will be dealt with through regular legal processes, including going to court.  See our Lawstuff pages on “When can I be convicted of a criminal offence” for more information about these crimes and what happens if you are accused of doing them.

This page was last updated 28 June 2015.