Queensland juvenile justice reforms that will transfer eligible 17-year-olds from the adult justice system to the youth justice system commenced on 12 February 2018.

The change follows the passing of the Youth Justice and Other Legislation (Inclusion of 17-year-old Persons) Amendment Act by the Queensland Parliament in 2016 (the Act), to amend the age that a person can be charged as an adult from 17 to 18 years of age.  This change has brought Queensland into line with legislation in all other Australian jurisdictions.

A transitional regulation supporting the Act also commenced on 12 February 2018 (Youth Justice (Transitional) Amendment Regulation 2018), ensuring 17-year-olds currently involved in the adult justice system could be transitioned to Youth Justice care.

Further, the reforms include provision of after-hours legal services to young people and increased funding for Legal Aid Queensland.

State Penalties Enforcement Registry enforcement

The State Penalties Enforcement Registry (SPER) has advised that since 12 February 2018, in Queensland, they treat 17-year-old offenders as children as opposed to the previous threshold of 16 years of age. This means that 17-year-olds are now dealt with under Queensland’s Youth Justice Act 1992, rather than by the adult justice system. 

As all 17-year-olds are now classed as children, the same SPER processes apply to them as currently apply to 15 and 16-year-olds.

To ensure there is no enforcement action against 17-year-olds from 12 February 2018, as of 1 February 2018 defaulted infringement notices and court fines for young offenders aged 17 can no longer be referred to SPER. As a result, SPER only accepts referrals of unpaid fines for children with voluntary instalment plans.

SPER is still able to accept payments from children, but won’t be able to take enforcement action if they don’t pay their debt.

Additionally, SPER has put transitional arrangements in place for dealing with 17-year-olds who already have debt with SPER or are under enforcement action. Any existing enforcement action was withdrawn on 1 February 2018, and no enforcement action has been taken after this date.

Community-based orders

The commencement of the legislation and transitional regulation also means that all 17-year-olds on community-based orders have or will transfer to Youth Justice supervision.

Court proceedings transfer to the youth justice system:

  • If it is the first time the matter is before the court
  • Following the completion of a hearing (where the hearing has been partially-heard)
  • Where a community-based order is breached.