The NSW Police Force has a strong commitment to building trust with young people while reducing crime, violence and fear of crime in the community. The NSW Police Force will continue to work towards diverting young people from the formal justice system and enhancing positive relationships between itself and the young people of NSW.
In NSW, criminal responsibility legally commences at the age of 10. Under criminal law, a 'child' is defined as a person less than 18 years of age. Various aspects of criminal justice are administered in NSW by different government agencies including the NSW Police Force, the Department of Attorney General and Justice and the Department of Juvenile Justice. These agencies work closely together to reduce re-offending among young people.
Police may divert eligible young offenders from court and detention through warnings, cautions or referral to a youth justice conference under the Young Offenders Act. The Act states that a formal caution or a Youth Justice Conference (YJC) can be prescribed for a young person if the young person has:
- admitted the offence;
- consented to a caution or YJC;
- committed an offence for which a caution or YJC can be given;
- and, is entitled to a caution or YJC.
The decision about entitlement is made with regards to the seriousness of the offence; the degree of violence; the harm caused to the victim; previous offence history, and any other matter the official thinks is appropriate.
Graffiti offences are not covered under the Young Offenders Act. Young offenders cannot be diverted from court if charged with a graffiti offence under the Graffiti Legislation Amendment Act 2012. Courts have the ability to use cautions and refer young offenders to youth justice conferences in these cases.
NSW Police Force has recently launched the NSW Police Force Youth Strategy 2013-2017 (PDF, 7.6MB). The following key principles underpin the Youth Strategy:
- Building collaborative relationships
- Early intervention and prevention
- Promoting trust and respect
- Providing the right person and the right response
- Strategic timing and programming
- Transparency and accountability
- Understanding diversity and responding effectively.