About the youth justice system

For free and confidential legal advice about this topic, please contact us here.

The Youth Justice Act 2005 (‘The Act’) provides an alternative to going to court for people under 18  The Act creates a system of warnings, youth justice conferences and youth diversion programs, as well as the Youth Justice Court. Under the Act, court proceedings are a last resort. Also, the Act says that young people should only be kept in police custody for a crime as a last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time. This means in all but the most serious cases, police shouldn’t arrest you or force you to go to court.

Navigate this page

Who is covered by the youth justice scheme?

The Act covers children and young people under 18 years of age at the time of committing a crime.  

You and your parents have to agree to get a written warning, go to a conference or do another diversion. If they don’t agree, then the police can charge you and you will go to Court.

You are not covered by the Act if you’ve already done a Youth Justice Conference or another diversion program, or if you have lots of previous convictions and have been given the opportunity to use diversion in the past and you keep breaking the law.

What crimes are covered by the youth justice scheme?

Not all crimes are covered by the Act. Some examples of crimes covered by the Act include:

  • Offensive language or behaviour in public
  • Damaging property and public features such as fountains and street lamps
  • Possessing stolen goods
  • Breaking into houses and building
  • Intentionally making loud noises to annoy others
  • Challenging others to a fight

Crimes not covered by the Act include:

  • Crimes where you have received a fine/infringement notice
  • Certain driving crimes (e.g. driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, driving without a licence, dangerous driving, speeding)
  • Very serious crimes, for example involving drugs or violence.

These offences will be dealt with through regular legal processes, including going to court.  See our pages on “Penalties given by the Children’s Court” for more information about this.

If you’re under 25 and you’ve been accused of a crime and want to know what could happen, please contact us here and we can give you free advice and information. Everything you tell us will be kept confidential.

Got a question you can't get answered?

If you have a problem or a question, you can send it to us today and we can provide you with free advice, information and referrals to help solve your problem. Just click on the button below.

Get help now

Select Your State or Territory

The law is different in each state and territory. Please select your state or territory to view legal information that applies to you.