There were 6,100 young people under youth justice supervision in Australia on an average day in 2013–14, due to their involvement, or alleged involvement, in crime. This number has fallen from about 6,400 in 2012–13. Most (85%) of these young people were supervised in the community and the remainder were in detention. Young people spent 26 weeks, on average, under supervision during the year.
The youth justice system is the set of processes and practices for
managing children and young people who have committed, or allegedly
committed, an offence. While each state and territory in Australia has
its own youth justice legislation, policies and practices, the general
processes by which young people are charged and sentenced, and the types
of legal orders available to the courts, are similar.
Separate justice systems exist for young people and adults. Young
people can be charged with a criminal offence if they are aged 10 and
older. The upper age limit for treatment as a young person is 17 in all
states and territories except Queensland, where the limit is 16.
However, some young people aged 18 and older are also involved in the
youth justice system. This may be due to the offence being committed
when the young person was aged 17 or younger; the continuation of
supervision once they turn 18; or their vulnerability or immaturity.
Also, in Victoria, some young people aged 18–20 may be sentenced to
detention in a youth facility under a ‘dual track’ sentencing system,
which is intended to prevent vulnerable young people from entering the
adult prison system at an early age.
A young person first enters the youth justice system when they are
investigated by police for allegedly committing a crime. Legal action
taken by police may include court actions (the laying of charges to be
answered in court) and non-court actions (such as cautions,
conferencing, counselling or infringement notices). A court may decide
to dismiss the charge, divert the young person from further involvement
in the system (for example by referral to mainstream services), or
transfer them to specialist courts or programs. If the matter proceeds
and the charge is proven, the court may hand down any of a number of
orders, either supervised or unsupervised.
Recommended citation:AIHW 2015. Youth justice in Australia 2013–14. AIHW bulletin no. 127. Cat. no. AUS 188. Canberra: AIHW.