Police Powers and Young People (Tas)

In Tasmania, a young person who is over the minimum age of criminal liability can be arrested and charged with a criminal offence. There are strict processes that police must follow when dealing with suspects, and there are additional rules that apply when the suspect is a juvenile. This page deals with police powers and young people in Tasmania.


In Tasmania, the Youth Justice Act 1997 governs how the police must carry out arrests, searches and prosecutions of young people.

Age of criminal liability

At present, the age of criminal liability in Tasmania is 10. However, the Tasmanian government has announced its intention to raise this age to 14. This is expected to occur in late 2024.

The change comes in response to widespread pressure to raise the age of criminal responsibility in all Australian jurisdictions due to the high numbers of children, particularly Indigenous children, in detention across Australia. Similar changes have been announced in several other states.

Arrests of young people

Under section 24 of the Youth Justice Act 1997, police may only arrest a young person in relation to an offence if they believe the offence is serious enough to warrant arrest and:

  • The arrest is necessary to prevent the offence continuing or being repeated; or
  • The arrest is necessary to facilitate the making of a family violence order; or
  • The arrest is necessary to prevent the loss or damage of evidence; or
  • The young person is unlikely to attend court in response to a summons.

When a young person is arrested, the police must inform them that they are not obliged to answer any questions. They must also inform a parent or guardian of the arrest.

Searches of young people

A young person may be searched for the following purposes:

  • To ensure the young person’s safety
  • To obtain to preserve evidence of an offence
  • To ascertain whether the young person has a weapon or something that could be used to help a person escape from custody;
  • To ascertain whether thr young person has drugs or other items prohibited in a custodial facility
  • To remove articles to safekeeping

A search must be conducted in the least intrusive way possible.

Police power to give caution

If a young person commits an offence and the police believe the matter does not warrant formal proceedings, they may choose to deal with the matter by giving the young person a caution. This may be an informal caution or a formal caution.

A formal caution may require the young person to enter into an undertaking, pay compensation, perform unpaid community work, apologise to the victim, or take some other action that is appropriate in the circumstances.

If a young person fails to comply with the terms of a formal caution, the police may proceed to lay a charge. If the caution is complied with, no charge will be laid and the young person will not acquire a criminal record.  

Criminal charges

If the police lay a charge against a young person, the matter will be dealt with in the Children’s Court. The young person may be summonsed to attend court, arrested and then bailed, or remanded in custody until the court date.

If a young person is found guilty of an offence, they will be sentenced under the Youth Justice Act 1997. The court may impose a range of penalties including a good behaviour bond, a probation order, a fine, a community service order or a term of detention.

Bail applications

When a young person is arrested and charged with offences, they may be granted bail by the police or remanded in custody. If a young person is refused bail by the police, they must be brought before the Children’s Court as soon as practicable and given the opportunity to apply for bail.

If a young person is granted bail, they will be conditionally released until the matter is finalised. Conditions may be imposed as part of the bail agreement. If the young person is refused bail, they will remain in custody until the matter is finalised or until a court grants them bail.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Go To Court Lawyers.


Fernanda Dahlstrom

Fernanda Dahlstrom has a Bachelor of Laws from Latrobe University, a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice from the College of Law, a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Melbourne and a Master of Arts (Writing and Literature) from Deakin University. Fernanda practised law for eight years, working in criminal defence, child protection and domestic violence law in the Northern Territory. She also practised in family law after moving to Brisbane in 2016.
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