Police, courts and crime
police; legal; court; arrested; victim; crime; criminal; offence; warrant; youth; court; justice; system; cops; law; jail; bail; fine; witness; caution; drug; detension; remand; custody; charge; juvenile;
Being in trouble with the law is stressful, scary and confusing. It can affect your physical or mental health and also have an impact on the relationships in your life. Being the victim of, or witnessing a crime can also have an effect on your health.
Note: For more detailed information, you should check out other sites in 'Resources - South Australia' section, or speak to a lawyer.
people and crime in South Australia
It is a myth that young people who commit crimes are a "particular kind of person". They are often mistakenly labelled as "criminals" and "trouble makers" and believed to be "born bad". It's true that young people do have more frequent contact with the police than adults, but most never get to court or offend again.
Young people who offend come from many different backgrounds, and break the law for lots of different reasons. Of the small percentage of people who do go on to re-offend, many have little support, have difficult and scary issues in their lives, or feel separate or different from the rest of the community.
- It is estimated that one in five people become involved in the juvenile justice system during adolescence.
- 10% of these young people will end up in a youth court.
- Most of the people who end up in court will do so only once.
So why do some young people choose criminal activity? It can be for lots of reasons, and is influenced by things like the young person's family siutation, where they live, whether they are employed or not and how much money they have.
Research has shown some trends and differences between youth and adult crime. Young people:
- often commit crime in groups, which can make them easier to notice
- often commit crime in public places, and may try to attract attention, making them more likely to get caught
- tend to do criminal activity that is unplanned and opportunistic
- often commit offences near their home, where they might easily be seen by someone like a neighbour (Cunneen & White 1995).
a victim of crime?
If you are the victim of a crime, you might have lots of different reactions:
- depression, crying or feelings of sadness
- feelings of shame, guilt or loneliness
- sleeping difficulties, tiredness or nightmares
- flashbacks - reliving the event
- increased smoking, alcohol or other drug use
- feeling afraid, and being scared to go out
- finding it hard to make decisions or concentrate
- feeling sick or having headaches
- shaking, sweating or having changes to appetite
- being withdrawn, or having changes in relationships
- slow thinking or forgetfulness.
Whatever your reaction, it is quite normal to feel distressed for a while. Each person will react differently - the feelings might last anywhere from a few days to years, depending on your personal situation and what happened to you.
tips to help victims
Here are some tips to help someone who has been the victim of a crime.
- Listen to your friends' stories, show that you are listening and believe them.
- Be non-judgemental - it is not their fault. The offender is responsible.
- Try to put yourself in their shoes and understand how they might be feeling.
- Reassure them that what they are feeling is natural.
- Get yourself as much information about distress caused by this sort of event.
- Notice changes in behaviour and talk about it in a non-threatening way.
- Let your friends make their own decisions, so that they feel in control of their situation.
- Help them with practical things like appointments or jobs around the house.
- Offer your support when they go to the police, doctors, lawyers or counsellors.
However you help, you might find the situation has an effect on your life. Make sure you have support and you look after yourself too!
Getting in trouble with the law is no fun. It can seem like the police hold all the cards, and that because you are younger and don't know the law as well, you hold very few.
The most important thing to remember if you get in trouble is: don't panic!
- Give the police your name and address calmly and be polite.
- If you swear or if you're rude or aggressive, the police may be able to charge you.
- If you feel the officer is being disrespectful, it can be hard to hold your tongue - but it's best to be polite and make any complaints later.
If you get into trouble and the police want to interview you, it is important to try to stay calm and remember that you have rights - but there are also some things that you must comply with.
The right to remain silent
- In most cases, you must give your correct name and address. If you give an incorrect one, it can be an offence. If you are under 18 years, it can also be useful for you to give your birth date.
- In most cases you should refuse to answer any other questions or sign any statements until you have been advised by a lawyer.
There are times when you must comply with the police
- At a licensed premises, you must give your name, address, age and show evidence of your age if you are asked.
- In a motor vehicle, both passengers and drivers must tell police the name(s) and address of whoever owns the vehicle.
- Drivers must show their licence on the spot or within 48 hours at a police station.
- "P" or "L" plate drivers must carry their licences whenever they are driving.
- You must answer when a customs officer asks you about importing or exporting drugs.
If a young person (under 18) is being questioned for a serious offence
- Someone who is not a police officer must be with you while the questions are being asked.
- You may ask for someone like a parent, guardian, lawyer or representative from Families SA. The police can refuse permission for certain people to be present.
The police station
- You get taken to a police station only if you are arrested.
- You have the right to legal advice at any time.
- If you have been arrested and you are under 18 years of age, you should be interviewed with another adult present (you can choose this person, but the police can refuse certain people).
- You should have a chance to talk to this person privately.
- You can be arrested only when the police find you in the act of committing a crime, or you are suspected of committing an offence, or there has been a warrant issued for your arrest.
- The charge must be stated clearly, and you must be told you rights and responsibilities by the arresting officer.
- You are entitled to make a phone call to a friend or relative.
- You always have the right to know what you have been arrested for.
- If you are under 18 years of age, your parents should be informed if you are arrested.
If you are an Aboriginal person
- As an Aboriginal person, you have the right to speak to an Aboriginal liaison officer if you are arrested or if the police want to ask you questions.
If you are from a non-English speaking background
- As a person with a non-English speaking background, an interpreter can be used if you do not understand English well.
If you are asked to make a statement
- You do not have make a statement or sign one without a lawyer present.
After you have been arrested and charged
- Police have the right to take fingerprints, toe prints, teeth impressions, record your voice and get samples of your handwriting.
- A police officer is not allowed to use violence or threaten to use violence. However, they can use whatever force is reasonably necessary if someone struggles when under arrest, or uses violence, or refuses to be photographed or examined.
In situations when someone in a position of power is acting inappropriately, it can be very hard to get a good outcome. But the best way to deal with it is by being polite and then making a complaint to the Officer-in-Charge or the Ombudsman. Make sure you have a lawyer or support worker with you when you do.
- If you have been injured by a police officer, it is very important to have a physical examination by a doctor and have photographs taken of any injuries. It is useful to approach any witnesses who may be able to help you.
- Record everything you can remember about the event on paper as soon as possible, and as accurately as possible.
- Remember, you have to prove that it happened.
Knowing your rights and responsibilities and having as much information as is possible along the way can help decrease your stress around being in trouble with the police. It can also mean that you feel like you have more control and choices. Talk to a lawyer, counsellor or someone you think might be able to support you.
for young people under 18 years
The Youth Court deals with criminal offences committed by young people between the ages of 10 and 18.
However, if you are under 18 you might be cautioned for a first or minor offence instead of being taken to court.
- This can be an informal caution by the police or a formal caution requiring parents or guardians to be involved.
- The police can only caution you if you admit to the offence and you agree to be cautioned. No official record is kept of the caution.
If you have had a caution and the offence is not serious enough for you to be sent to the Youth Court you will be dealt with at a Family Conference.
- You must admit to the offence and agree to attend the conference before a Family Conference can be held.
- A Family Conference is a meeting involving yourself, your family, a police youth officer, the victim of the offence and any other relevant people.
- The meeting will decide what penalty you will get for the offence. The penalty may be an apology, community service work or another penalty.
- If you do not agree wih the decision the matter can be referred to the Youth Court.
If you do not admit to the offence, or the offence is considered serious, you will need to appear before the Youth Court.
You might be going to court for committing a crime, because you witnessed a crime or because you were the victim of a crime. Whatever the reason, going to court can be a scary and stressful experience, and you might feel intimidated, powerless and overwhelmed. Taking care of yourself can be vital during this time.
Here are some tips:
- Find out as much as possible about the process. What will be expected of you? What are your rights? What are your responsibilities? Talk to a lawyer, the police or ring a telephone hotline for legal advice (you don't have to give your name).
- Know your rights and responsibilities. Do you have the right to protection, or can you provide evidence without being in the courtroom? Talk to your lawyer and access as much information as is possible.
- Visit the court. Find out where it is. If you are over 18 years of age, the courts are public places and you may attend most proceedings. If you are under 18 years, the youth court is not a public place, so you might talk to your lawyer or social worker about the possibility of setting up a visit.
- Make sure you have support. This means more than a lawyer and legal support. It also means having someone to talk to about how you are feeling. This might be a family member, friend, counsellor or trusted adult.
- Do the things you enjoy. Keep up the things you do to relax, eg. go surfing, fishing, walking, do sport, or visit a friend.
Jails and secure care are places of detention when you have been convicted of committing a crime. They can also be used to hold you in remand. Remand is when you are held in custody before a court has sentenced you for a crime you've been charged with.
Jail and secure care have two main functions - to enforce justice depending on a crime, and to provide rehabilitation to people who have offended. The balance between rehabilitation and punishment may be different depending on things like where you live, your government/political situation, court requests, staff/workers and the media.
Bail is a contract that is issued to try to make sure you will appear in court when you have been told to. If you are charged with an offence and you have to go to court, you can apply for bail.
Whether you get bail or not can be determined by the police, Magistrates Court, District Court, Supreme Court or the Court of Appeal. They will look at things like:
- your character, mental health and social background
- your current employment and living situation
- your relationships with family and friends
- past criminal convictions and your history and behaviour in the legal system
- any past breach (breaking) of bail
- any responsible member(s) of the community who will vouch for your reliability
- the likelihood of you attending court (based on what you have done in the past)
- your behaviour when arrested or when attending court (eg. if you are aggressive and rude, it is likely you won't be given bail)
- the likelihood of you hurting, threatening or harming anyone in the public
- the chances of you interfering with a witness or doing anything else that might get in the way of justice
- the possibility of you re-offending.
A bail contract will come with certain conditions (or rules) that you have to obey. Breaking these rules will result in you going to jail or secure care.
These are rules about:
- what you have to do
- where you have to live
- who you must or must not have contact with while you are on bail.
They also outline fines and financial agreements you and another person (the one who will vouch for you) undertake when you enter into this agreement.
Whether you are in jail or applying for bail, it is very useful to talk to a lawyer. Your lawyer should be able to answer your questions and explain things to you in a way that you can easily understand (there are lots of legal terms that are confusing and hard to understand for most people).
Getting out of jail or secure care can be a difficult and scary time. You might have made lots of decisions about changes to your life, you might have lost contact with people, and you might not know what you will do or where you can go. The first week is a time when people say they feel most unsafe. Studies also show this as a time when people are most likely to commit another crime or hurt themselves (some people commit suicide shortly after leaving detention - check out our topic on Suicide).
To prepare for release, it's worth considering the following things.
- employment, education, training and learning new personal skills
- accommodation and getting/managing money
- making, keeping or re-establishing links with family and friends
- dealing with alcohol or other drug issues
- managing mental health issues
- facing and understanding the effect of abuse in your life
- ways to avoid further crime.
To prepare for your release while you are in jail or secure care, you might:
- talk to counsellors, social workers or other people who can help
- write a journal or plan for yourself for when you leave
- set up supports for when you get out - there are services that understand and can help you when you are released; you might also have family and friends who are supportive.
- The Second Story Youth Health Service (TSS)
- Central: 57 Hyde St, Adelaide
- South: 50a Beach Rd, Christies Beach
- North: 6 Gillingham Rd, Elizabeth
- West: 51 Bower St, Woodville
- Youth Healthline 1300 13 17 19,
- Central Community Legal Service - Children and Youth under 18 years
- Legal Services Commission of SA
Tel: 8463 3555 Fax: 8463 3599
Telephone advice line - 1300 366 424
- Women's Legal Service SA, Inc.
Tel: 8221 5553 or country Tel: 1800 816 349.
- Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement Inc.
Tel: 8113 3777 Fax: 8113 3755
- Victim Support Service
Tel: 8231 5626 or for country people 1800 182 368
Fax: 8231 5458
- Lawstuff - South Australia
- South Australia Police
- Gay & Lesbian Liaison Officers (GLLO) are available in many places in Australia. These officers are there to help gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer communities to get support around homophobia, abuse and human rights issues. Check with your local station. The South Australian Police have an online GLLO list: http://www.police.sa.gov.au/sapol/community_services/...
- Kids Helpline - Tel: 1800 55 1800
- Your school, college or university counsellor
The Second Story Youth Health Service teamed up with Mission Australia in 2006 to bring together young people from five high schools in the South of Adelaide. Two thirty second community service announcement advertisements were produced for the Get Reel competition. You can download them from our Resources>Videos page.
The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Youth Healthline on 1300 13 17 19 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).
- Lawstuff - a great site where you can find answers to questions about young people and the law:
- Human rights. Human rights covers many very important issues. Human rights are about respect, justice and equality for everyone. This site has heaps of information on the history of human rights, human rights in Australia, and human rights issues around the world: