Warnings and Formal Cautions

Informal Cautions

If you admit to committing a minor offence and the police officer feels that the matter does not require any formal action, the police officer may give you an informal caution against further offending.

After receiving an informal caution, no further action or punishment can be taken against you in relation to the offence. No official criminal records of your details are kept, however the Police are required to record the informal caution in their patrol log and report it to the appropriate Divisional Intelligence Officer for recording. They will also deliver or post a ‘Notice to Guardian of Informal Police Caution’ to your guardian or parent.

Formal Cautions

If the offence you admitted to committing was minor but the police officer feels that the matter is more serious and requires formal action, they may give you a formal caution.

How are formal cautions given?

Formal cautions are given by a police officer at a meeting held at a police station with you and your parent, guardian or nominated adult. The police officer must explain to you the nature of the caution and the fact that an official record of the formal caution against you will be kept. The formal caution must be put in writing and acknowledged by yourself in writing. The Police are required to give the victim information about your identity if requested.


As well as receiving a formal caution, you may be required to enter into a formal undertaking. This undertaking is an agreement to:

a) pay compensation to the victim of your offence; or

b) perform up to 75 hours of community service; or

c) apologise to the victim or do anything else that may be appropriate in the circumstances.

Your parent, guardian or nominated adult may contribute to discussions about any undertaking that you may be required to enter into. The undertaking must be signed by you, a representative of the Commissioner of Police, and if possible your parents or guardians.

If you do not comply with the requirements of the Police including any undertaking, a police officer may refer you to participate in a family conference, or you may be charged for the offence and have to attend court.

How do formal cautions affect my criminal record?

If you receive a formal caution and have complied with all requirements by the Police including any undertakings, you will not be prosecuted for the offence and it will not form part of your criminal record. However, a formal caution may be considered as a prior offence if you re-offend and come before the Youth Court. It does not count as a prior offence in adult proceedings against you once you turn 18.


This information was last reviewed on 22 October 2010.

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