Our goal is to provide a fair and balanced response to young people in contact with the youth justice system. This response:

  • holds young people accountable for their actions
  • encourages young people to reintegrate into the community
  • gives young people skills to create a better future
  • promotes community safety.

The youth justice process

The youth justice process can be divided into the following 3 parts.

Police are usually the first point of contact for a young offender. When a young person commits a crime, police could decide to:

  • take no further action after completing their investigation
  • issue a caution
  • refer to a restorative justice process. A restorative justice conference brings victims and offenders together to reach agreement on how to repair the harm caused by the offence. It encourages the young person to take responsibility for their actions.
  • pursue other legal processes, for example, a drug diversion or graffiti removal program
  • pursue prosecution through the court.

Officers always consider alternatives to divert a young person from entering or continuing in the justice system.

If police consider the alleged offending is serious enough for a young person to go further into the justice system, court action is required.

A young person can stay in the community until the outcome of the court process has been finalised, or can be held in custody.

Most offending by young people will be heard by a magistrate sitting in the Childrens Court. Townsville also has a Youth Court that makes sure all identified high risk and repeat young offenders (aged 10–17) appear in court before the same magistrate.

Courts interpret and apply the laws made by Parliament. The Youth Justice Act 1992 is the main piece of legislation that applies to young offenders (10–17 years).

The magistrate works with the young person, their legal representatives and government departments to:

  • hold them accountable
  • keep the community safe
  • work towards preventing the young person from reoffending.

If a young person pleads guilty to—or is found guilty of—offences when they go to court, they will be sentenced. Types of orders and sentences may include:

  • fines
  • reprimands
  • good behaviour orders
  • graffiti removal orders
  • community service orders
  • restorative justice orders
  • probation orders
  • conditional release orders
  • intensive supervision orders
  • detention orders
  • supervised release orders

Read more about sentencing options and youth court orders.

Sentencing options

Courts must decide on a sentence for each young person based on their actions and their current situation.

Sentencing must be for 1 (or more) of the following reasons. To:

  • punish an offender for their actions
  • change (rehabilitate) their behaviour
  • discourage them and others from committing the same or similar crimes
  • formally denounce an offender's actions
  • protect the community from the offender.

In deciding what penalty is appropriate, the court considers the level of harm experienced by the victim, police reports, and other government agencies such as Youth Justice and Child Safety, or people connected to the young offender. If the young offender is an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person, a submission from their community justice group may also be considered.

Where necessary, detention is an option. Read more about youth detention in Queensland.

Last updated 12 July 2024

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