Changes to YJ System

Changes to YJ System – click here to print


Changes to the youth justice system happened in July 2016. These changes impact:

  • how courts operate, including sentence options
  • how young people can have their sentence reconsidered
  • who can know about a young person’s offending history
  • when 17 year olds can be transferred to adult prisons
  • mandatory boot camp


Courts where young people under 17 appear on criminal matters are now closed to members of the public although the court may allow media to sit in provided that is not contrary to the best interests of the child appearing in court.

Certain people will always be allowed to be in court.  They are:

  • the police prosecutor
  • the young person’s lawyer
  • a person giving evidence in court (a witness)
  • a parent or member of the young person’s family
  • a person from an organisation supporting the child if they are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander (for example a Community Justice Group from the child’s community)
  • someone who can help the Magistrate in dealing with the specific matter or who the Magistrate thinks has a proper reason to be there such as someone in court doing approved research
  • the victim of the crime or their representative
  • victim of a sexual offence and their support person
  • a representative of the Department of justice and Attorney-General (Youth Justice).


If a young person has been found guilty of an offence of violence against a person punishable by life imprisonment (eg attempted murder, manslaughter, armed robbery, robbery in company, murder) and the court considers the offence to be particularly heinous having regard to all the circumstances then the court can allow any details about a young person which identifies them to be reported by the media.  It is an offence to publish such details without such an order of the court.  This was the law prior to April 2014 when the last changes to Youth Justice were made.


If a young person is found guilty of an offence which they committed whilst on bail, they will no longer be liable to a further charge of committing an offence whilst on bail. This offence was found to contravene the rules of double jeopardy and was not a punishment which adults faced.


The long standing principle that detention should only be a punishment of last resort has been reinstated.   Courts will again have power to use restorative justice diversions, such as victim-offender conferences.  The youth justice conferencing program will be expanded to allow for increased flexibility in the delivery of restorative justice interventions as part of police-referred and court-referred conferencing.  


Appeal against sentences given by a Childrens Court Magistrate will again go to the Childrens Court Judge who is a specialists in youth offending and youth issues. This is a much faster process than appeals to District Court Judges.


Boot Camps are no longer a sentencing option of the courts.  Sentenced Boot Camps have been closed.


Courts have been given more options in dealing with a young person convicted of an offence.  The court can, with the agreement of the young person, make a Restorative Justice Order which may result on a conference or participation of the young person in an alternative diversion program (remedial actions, activities intended to strengthen the child’s relationship with the child’s family and community or educational programs).    A young person can be ordered to participate in the program as well as having to complete graffiti removal or community service orders.

Police can also refer a young person to a restorative justice process instead of charging them.


If a person is sentenced for breaking the law when they are an adult, the court can be told about any offences they were found guilty of when they were under 17 where a conviction was recorded.  If the Childrens Court decided not to record a conviction against the young person then the adult court will not be told about those matters.   


A 17 year old will not automatically be transferred to an adult prison when they have more than 6 months left on their detention order. Young people will not be transferred to adult corrections until they turn 18 and a court, on application, will be able to delay a young person’s transfer for up to six months after they turn 18.

Who can help?

Youth Advocacy Centre (YAC)……………………….. 3356 1002

South West Brisbane Community Legal Centre…………….. 3372 7677

Logan Youth & Family Legal Service………………… 3826 1500

Legal Aid Queensland…………………………….. 1300 651 188

Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Legal Service…………………….. 3025 3888 or (free call)1800 012 255 (24hrs 7 days a week)                                            

Translating & Interpreting Services (24hrs)……………………… 131 450

Community Legal Centres (CLCs) see for your nearest CLC

This sheet was last reviewed and updated in January 2017.  The Youth Advocacy Centre does not accept responsibility for any action or outcome as a result of anyone relying on the information provided.