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Police Powers and Young People (Qld)

In Queensland, a young person can be arrested and charged with a criminal offence if they are aged 10 or older. When the police are dealing with a young person, there are additional rules and procedures they must follow to ensure the young person’s rights are upheld. This page deals with police powers and young people in Queensland.

Legislation on police powers and young people

In Queensland, the Youth Justice Act 1992 governs how police must deal with young people who are suspects and defendants. The Police Powers and Responsibilities Act 2000 sets out police powers and responsibilities that apply to young people, such as the powers to carry out arrests and searches.

Age of criminal liability

The age of criminal liability in Queensland is currently 10. However, the Queensland government has expressed its ‘in principle’ support for raising the age of criminal liability to 12 in line with similar changes being made in other states.

The changes come in response to widespread public pressure to raise the age because of the rising numbers of young people, particularly Indigenous young people, who are in detention across Australia.

Police powers to arrest and charge young people

Police may arrest a child if they reasonably suspect that the child is committing or has committed an offence.

In Queensland, when a child is arrested the police must notify their parent or guardian, as well as the Department of Families and Children.

Police interviews and young people

The police may ask a child to take part in an interview if they suspect the child has committed an offence. A child must not be interviewed unless:

  • They have allowed the child to speak to a support person; and
  • The support person is present for the interview.

The police must also inform a legal aid organisation that a child is in custody.

A young person is not obliged to take part in an interview with police. The police must inform the young person that they do not have to say anything and that anything they do say may be used as evidence against them. This is known as a caution, and it must be given in a way that the young person can understand.

Cautions and restorative justice programs

When a child commits a minor offence, the police may choose to deal with the matter by giving them a caution instead of bringing them before a court. When this happens, the offence does not form part of the child’s criminal history.

A caution may involve requiring the child to apologise to the victim of the offence.

When giving a caution is not appropriate, police may refer the matter to a restorative justice process. This will only occur where the child admits the offence and is willing to comply with the referral and the police consider it is more appropriate than taking the matter to court.

Children’s Court

When the police lay charges against a child, the matter will be dealt with in the Children’s Court. The child may be summonsed to attend court, arrested and then granted bail, or remanded in custody until court.

Both the child and their parent or guardian must attend court.

If a child is found guilty of an offence, the court will sentence the child to an appropriate penalty, such as a good behaviour bond, a fine, a community work order or a term of detention.

Bail and young people

Decisions about bail for young people are made under Part 5 of the Youth Justice Act 1992. Bail may be granted or refused by the police or by a court.

A child must be kept in custody if:

  • There is an unacceptable risk they will commit an offence that endangers the safety of the community or a person; and
  • There is no way to adequately mitigate that risk by imposing bail conditions.

A child may be kept in custody if there is an unacceptable risk that:

  • They will not attend court; or
  • They will commit an offence; or
  • They will interfere with witnesses or obstruct the course of justice.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

Fernanda Dahlstrom

This article was written by Fernanda Dahlstrom

Fernanda Dahlstrom has a Bachelor of Laws, a Bachelor of Arts and a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice. She has also completed a Master’s in Writing and Literature. Fernanda practised law for eight years, working in criminal defence, child protection and domestic violence law in the Northern Territory and in family law in Queensland.

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