Sentencing in the Youth Court (SA)

A young person in South Australia can be charged with a criminal offence if they are over 10. Criminal matters where the accused is under 18 are dealt with in the Youth Court under the Young Offenders Act 1993. The Youth Court can impose a range of penalties, including fines and terms of detention. This page deals with sentencing in the Youth Court of South Australia.

Sentencing young people

When a court is sentencing a young person under 18, it must impose a sentence that is geared foremost towards giving the young person the care, correction and guidance they need to develop into responsible and useful members of the community.

Section 3 of the Young Offenders Act 1993 sets out the policies to be taken into account when dealing with young offenders, including:

  • That the young person be made aware of their obligations and of the consequences of breaking the law;
  • The protection of the community;
  • The deterrent effect of any proposed penalties;
  • The young person’s family relationships should be preserved and strengthened;
  • The young person’s education or employment should not be interrupted unnecessarily.

Supervision orders

A young person cannot be sentence to a good behaviour bond in South Australia. However, under section 26 of the Youth Offenders Act 1996, the court may impose obligations such as:

  • To submit to supervision;
  • To participate in a particular program;
  • To carry out specified work;
  • To live at a specified address;

Failing to comply with an obligation is punishable by a fine of up to $2500, detention for up to six months, or both.

Fines in the Youth court

A young person can be sentenced to a fine, which is an amount of money that must be paid to the Fines Recovery Unit by a particular date. A person may be allowed to pay a fine in instalments if they need to do so.

Under section 24 of the Young Offenders Act 1993, a court can impose a fine on a young offender. The fine for an offence must not be more than $2500.

A court will generally only impose a fine on a young person if the young person has an income.

Community service orders

Under section 25 of the Youth Offenders Act 1993, a young person can be ordered to carry out up to 500 hours of unpaid community service over a period of up to 18 months.

A young person will only be sentenced to a community service order if there is a suitable placement for them in a community service program.

Custodial sentences in the Youth Court

A young person under 18 cannot be sentenced to imprisonment unless the young person is sentenced as an adult under section 36 of the Youth Offenders Act 1993. When the court is sentencing a youth, it may impose a custodial sentence in the form of:

  • A term of youth detention of up to three years;
  • A term of home detention of up to 12 months;
  • A combination of youth detention and home detention.

Young people who are sentenced to youth detention in South Australia serve their sentences at one of the two campuses of Adelaide Youth Training Centre (AYTC).

A sentence of detention must not be imposed on a young person unless they are a recidivist or a serious firearm offender, or unless the court considers that a non-custodial sentence would be inadequate.

Disqualification from driving

Under section 28 of the Young Offenders Act 1993, the court can make an order disqualifying a young person from obtaining a driver’s licence for a specified period if it considers they are not a fit and proper person to hold a licence. Once the young person turns 18, they may apply to the court for this order to be removed.


When a young person is found guilty of an offence, the court may or may not record a conviction. However, when a young person is found guilty of a major indictable offence, the court must record a conviction unless there are special reasons for not doing so (section 21, Young Offenders Act, 1993.)

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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