What happens when a young person becomes involved with the police?
It can be difficult for families when a young person is questioned about breaking the law. Find out the rights of young people when they are arrested by police, options such as bail, plus learn about Youth Justice support services.
What happens when a young person is questioned by the police?
Young people have special rights as stated in the Young Offenders Act 1997.
If a young person is questioned by the police, they:
- may be given a warning
- do not have to go to a police station unless they are arrested
- may be searched if the police suspect they have drugs, stolen goods, or a weapon.
The young person does not have to answer any questions, make a statement, or sign a document except if:
they are driving a car
under 18 and drinking alcohol in a public place
suspected of being involved in or witnessing a serious crime
on public transport, or
involved in a car accident.
If a young person or their parent, guardian or carer, would like more information about a young person’s legal rights, they can contact Legal Aid on 1800 10 18 10 or the Aboriginal Legal Service on 1800 765 767.
What happens when a young person is arrested?
If a young person has been arrested, and they or their parents, guardians or carers are unsure of their legal rights, contact Legal Aid on 1800 10 18 10 or the Aboriginal Legal Service on 1800 765 767.
When a young person is arrested by police, they will be taken to the police station to be interviewed.
The police are required under law to only interview a young person when a responsible adult support person is present. This person can be:
- a young person's parent or carer
- a person independent of the police, selected or agreed upon by the parent or young person (if 14 years or over)
- a lawyer of the young person's own choosing (if 14 years or over)
- a person who has not been concerned in the investigation of the offence and has no interest in the outcome of the investigation
- a Justice of the Peace (as a last resort).
A support person that is the same gender and/or similar ethnic, cultural or religious background as the young person can also be useful where practicable.
Organising a support person is the sole responsibility of the police and the interview cannot proceed without the support person present.
The young person does not have to make a statement or sign a document, even when a nominated support person is there. If they do, it may be used as evidence in court.
If the young person admits to the offence after receiving legal advice, the police may give them a warning, caution or referral to a Youth Justice Conference. If this happens, the young person should be provided with written information on what happens next.
If the young person is charged, the police may issue them with a Court Attendance Notice (CAN).
What happens when a young person is charged by police?
If a young person has been charged by police, parents, guardians and carers can contact Legal Aid on 1800 10 18 10 or the Aboriginal Legal Service on 1800 765 767 for legal advice. These are free services.
If the young person is over 14 years, the police may take photographs and fingerprints which will be destroyed if the court dismisses the charge.
The police will then decide if they will allow bail until the young person appears at court.
Bail is an agreement young people make with the police or court so that they can stay out of custody while the offence goes through court.
If the young person does not stick to the agreement, the police can arrest the young person and they can go into custody on remand which means they get sent to a Youth Justice Centre.
What happens when a young person is on bail?
The type of bail determines what happens when a young person is on bail.
There are two types of bail
Unconditional bail is where a young person agrees to appear at court on a set day.
Conditional bail is where a young person is released with conditions which might include:
- being of good behaviour
- turning up to court when told to
- living at an agreed place
- curfew – being home at a specific time
- signing in at the police station
- seeing Youth Justice
- going to school
- going to rehab or counselling
- not seeing co-offenders
an amount of cash to be lodged, which may be forfeited if they do not appear at court on the set day.
On occasions, the court may ask the young person to accept supervision of Youth Justice while on bail. If this occurs, it is important that the parent, guardian or carer and young person make prompt contact with their Youth Justice Community Office.
If the young person does not follow the conditions of bail, the police could arrest them.
When a young person is charged, the senior police officer on duty will decide whether or not bail will be granted. Several issues are considered, including the seriousness of the offence, community ties and likelihood of attendance at court.
If the young person has been refused bail by the police, the court may grant bail, allowing them back into the community. If bail is refused, the young person will be kept in custody until their court appearance. Young people under 18 are not usually kept in police cells - they are generally placed in a Youth Justice Centre to await the sitting of court.
The young person can reapply for bail if they did not have a lawyer represent them when the previous application was dealt with, or if new facts or circumstances have arisen since the previous application. Youth Justice may assist with presenting the court with these new facts or circumstances.
If bail is granted, the young person will be released on the condition that they attend court on a set day.
If the young person is not able to return home when bail is granted, a Youth Justice caseworker will help find a suitable place to stay.
What happens when a young person must attend court?
If a young person receives a Court Attendance Notice (CAN) or is arrested, they will have to attend court on a set date. It is the young person’s right to be represented by a duty solicitor. The duty solicitor will interview the young person at court on the day they appear at 9 am.
We encourage parents, guardians and carers to make themselves available for interview if required by the duty solicitor. A Youth Justice caseworker can be contacted to discuss the young person’s appearance in court. On the first court appearance, the young person will be asked to enter a plea of ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty’. This decision will be made by the young person following advice from their legal representative.
If the young person pleads ‘not guilty’
If the young person pleads ‘not guilty’, the young person will have to come back to court for a hearing where witnesses, including the police, will give evidence. Once all the evidence has been heard, the magistrate will decide whether the charges have been proven.
If the young person pleads ‘guilty’
If the young person pleads guilty:
- the magistrate may ask the parent, guardian or carer if they have anything to say
- the magistrate may decide on the young person’s sentence that day or set another court date so that Youth Justice can provide a background report on the young person.
If the magistrate asks for a background report, the young person will have to return to court another day for sentencing.
The magistrate may decide to refer the young person to a Youth Justice Conference.
Attending court by audio-visual link
If the young person is in a Youth Justice Centre, they can attend court by audio-visual link instead of physically attending the court. If attending court by audio-visual link, the young person will be taken to a booth at the Youth Justice Centre. In the booth is a television that shows the courtroom and court officials. It also shows the young person's solicitor, the magistrate, and police prosecutor. Images of the young person at the Centre appear on television in the court. The court hearing proceeds as if the young person was physically at the court.
What is a background report?
A background report is a document created by the young person and their caseworker to help the court to better understand more about the young person's life. Providing information about the young person’s life helps the court deliver the young person a fair sentence. A sentence is what the court says a young person has to do for their crime. The Youth Justice caseworker will ask questions about the young person’s:
what the young person is good at
what the young person likes doing
what the young person needs help with.
Youth Justice will ask the young person to sign a consent form allowing Youth Justice to share information and ask for information about the young person. A parent, guardian or carer may also need to sign the form.
What to talk about with a caseworker
A caseworker is the person at Youth Justice who helps the young person find support services to succeed in life. It is good for the young person to give their caseworker lots of information about themselves because this will be fed into the background report. The young person should tell their caseworker about any health issues or disabilities they have. This will tell the caseworker what is happening in the young person's life, plus help them find support services.