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Youth Justice System


What offences are covered by the Act?


The Young Offenders Act 1994 (the ‘Act’) provides ways of dealing with under 18s   when they have committed a crime other than just going to Court. The Act establishes a scheme of informal and formal cautions, and referrals to a Juvenile Justice Team.

The system emphasises the importance of the involvement of parents and guardians,  offenders accepting responsibility for their actions,  and community based solutions.  The system also seeks to strengthen the relationship between the young offender and their family. This is important as the right to belong to a family is one of the principles of the Act.

Court proceedings should be a last resort.  If you are in trouble for having committed a more serious crime or if you have committed a crime before you will probably have to go to court.  


What offences are covered by the Act?

Not all criminal offences are covered by the Act.  Some examples of offences for which you can receive a caution or referral to a Juvenile Justice Team include:
  • Driving without displaying P plates
  • Offensive language
  • Causing damage to a fountain at a park
  • Drinking alcohol with friends at a park
  • Stealing cattle from a farm
  • Breaking and entering into a house and stealing

Offences for which you will not be given a caution or referred to a juvenile justice team include:  
  • Serious driving offences (e.g. drink driving, reckless driving, driving without a license)
  • Sexual offences
  • If someone has died as a result of the offence
  • Most drug offences, except for possession of very small amounts.

These offences 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.

Either way, always keep in mind that your punishment will fit the crime – you’re not going to be sent to jail for getting a parking ticket!  If you’re under 25 and have a question about getting into trouble with the police or being accused of a crime, please send us a Lawmail and we can give you free, confidential advice.

This page was last updated 28 June 2015.