Youth Justice System
The Youth Justice Act 2005 (‘The Act’) provides an alternative to going to court for people under 18 The Act creates a system of warnings, youth justice conferences and youth diversion programs, as well as the Youth Justice Court. Under the Act, court proceedings are a last resort. Also, the Act says that young people should only be kept in police custody for a crime as a last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time.
This means in all but the most serious cases, police shouldn’t arrest you or force you to go to court.
The law emphasises the importance of the involvement of parents and guardians, offenders accepting responsibility for their actions and community-based solutions.
The Act covers children and young people under 18 years of age at the time of committing a crime.
You and your parents have to agree to get a written warning, go to a conference or do another diversion. If they don’t agree, then the police can charge you and you will go to Court.
You are not covered by the Act if you’ve already done a Youth Justice Conference or another diversion program, or if you have lots of previous convictions and have been given the opportunity to use diversion in the past and you keep breaking the law.
Not all crimes are covered by the Act.
Some examples of crimes covered by the Act include:
- Offensive language or behaviour in public
- Damaging property and public features such as fountains and street lamps
- Possessing stolen goods
- Breaking into houses and building
- Intentionally making loud noises to annoy others
- Challenging others to a fight
Crimes not covered by the Act include:
- Crimes where you have received a fine/infringement notice
- Certain driving crimes (e.g. driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, driving without a licence, dangerous driving, speeding)
- Very serious crimes, for example involving drugs or violence .
These offences will be dealt with through regular legal processes, including going to court. See our Lawstuff pages on “Penalties given by the Children’s Court” for more information about this.
If you’re under 25 and you’ve been accused of a crime and want to know what could happen, please send us a Lawmail and we can give you free advice and information. Everything you tell us will be kept confidential.
This page was last updated 28 June 2015.
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