Young people and crime in South Australia
police; crime; courts; offence; criminal;
Everyone makes mistakes at times. Most people learn from these mistakes - especially if they are given the right kind of support.
Sometimes making mistakes can lead to young people getting into trouble with the Police and having to go to Court.
This topic has been written to help young people to understand what this can mean.
Some facts about young people and crime
- People between the ages of 12 to 25 years make up 20% of the whole population.
- It is estimated that one in five people become involved in the juvenile justice system during adolescence; that is before they are 18 years old.
- 10% of these young people will end up in a youth court.
- For most of them it will be the only time they are in trouble.
There are many reasons why young people get into trouble with the law.
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
- their criminal activity is unplanned and opportunistic
- often commit offences near their home, where they might easily be seen by someone like a neighbour.
Know your rights
Getting in trouble with the law is not fun. 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 in 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 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 the import or export of 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 or you agree to be interviewed there.
- 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 your 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
- An interpreter can be used if you do not understand English well.
If you are asked to make a statement
- You do not have to 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.
What outcomes can you expect?
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.
Going to 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 find out as much information as is possible.
- Visit the court. Find out where it is. 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. visit a friend, go walking, do sport, or go surfing.
What penalties might be expected?
For a first or minor offence you may be cautioned by the Police or given a formal caution in the presence of your parents or guardians. This is instead of going to the Youth Court.
This cannot happen unless;
- You admit the offence.
- You agree to be cautioned.
Depending on the offence, here are some of the penalties that the Youth Court can impose.
- You can lose your driving licence or be banned from applying for or holding a licence for a specified time. New laws also allow for your car to be taken away by the Court.
- You can be fined. The fine can be up to $2,500.
- You may apply to do Community work if you cannot pay the fine. This work will be supervised by the Youth Justice team and can be up to 500 hours.
- You may be placed under an Obligation Order. The Court can set conditions for where you live, programs you need to attend and your pledge to stay out of trouble. These conditions are supervised by your district centre.
- If you are between 15-18 years old you may be placed in Detention in a secure care centre, eg in South Australia, Magill.
- You may have home detention where you are connected to an electronic monitoring device which is supervised.
- The Court may decide to give you a penalty but not to record a conviction, in which case you will not have a criminal record.
- The Court may order that a conviction is recorded and may also require a guarantee from a parent or guardian that you will not commit crimes. Having a criminal record may affect your chances of getting a job or travelling overseas.
How old do you need to be?
You can be charged with a criminal offence from the age of 10.
If you are between the ages of 10-14 you cannot be convicted of a criminal offence unless there is evidence which says that you knew what you were doing was wrong when you did it.
Children in trouble with the police
- Being in trouble with the police is a serious thing. It is also scary, stressful and confusing.
- Young people who break the law may have other things that are not going well for them in their life. Getting help with those problems may help you to stay out of trouble in the future.
- 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's and Youth Legal Service
A children's and youth legal advice service offering free legal advice, assistance, representation and referral on legal and non-legal matters to children and young people under 18 in South Australia.
Tel: (08) 8232 0233 Fax: (08) 8342 0899
- 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 Fax: 8231 5458
- The Lawstuff web site
Note: This link is to the South Australian section.
- South Australia Police
- To request police attendance - Tel: 131 444
- South Australia Police Youth Programs Unit
Tel: 8204 2222
- Family Conference Team - Tel: 8204 0562
- Your local Police Station (see under 'Police' in the phone book)
- 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:
- Department for Communities and Social Inclusion South Australia – Crime and Justice
Other places to turn for help
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:
- National Children's and Youth Law Centre
A free, independent community legal centre for children and young people and/or their advocates with emphasis on those most disadvantaged under the law (02) 9385 9588
- Human rights. Human rights cover 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: