Youth Hotline

Legal Aid NSW statewide specialist service.

The Youth Hotline is a telephone advice and information service for young people under 18 operating 9am to midnight weekdays, with a 24-hour service from Friday 9am to Sunday midnight and also on public holidays.

The Hotline is an important part of the Young Offenders Act 1997 (NSW) where after legal advice, young people make admissions to police and are then given cautions or referred to youth justice conferences by police, rather than being charged with offences and brought before a court.

We can provide advice and information for people under 18 living in NSW.

The Young Offenders Act 1997 (NSW) provides the option of warnings, cautions and conferences for young people whom the police suspect have committed an offence. These are called 'diversionary options'. This means that young people who can be dealt with under the Young Offenders Act, don't usually have to go to court or have a conviction recorded against them.

Warnings and cautions

warning can be given to young people for less serious offences with no violence or related issues. It can be given on the spot by police officers and the young person's name is recorded.

caution is a formal warning. This is given for more serious offences. To be eligible for a caution the young person has to admit to the offence and has to want to be dealt with by a caution. This should not happen until a young person has obtained legal advice by calling the Legal Aid Youth Hotline.

Youth Justice Conference

A young person may be referred to a Youth Justice Conference for offences that are more serious, or where there are no more cautions available. The decision to have a conference can be made by the police (usually a Specialist Youth Officer) or the Court. As with a caution, the young person must first admit to the offence after getting legal advice from the Legal Aid Youth Hotline. If a young person admits to the offence and is referred to a Youth Justice Conference, they must attend the conference where a support person like a parent, a Juvenile Justice Convenor, a representative from the police, and the victim may attend. The young person and the victim must then agree to an outcome plan to make up for the harm suffered by the victim and the community.

Your rights

Young people do not have to agree to be interviewed or discuss their case with police until they have spoken with a lawyer.

Young people have a right to remain silent.

Graffiti offences

The police are no longer able to deal with graffiti offences by way of a caution or a Youth Justice Conference. A graffiti offence is an offence under the Graffiti Control Act 2008 (NSW). The Children's Court however can still give young people cautions and Youth Justice Conferences for these types of charges.

Visiting Queensland?

In Queensland, you will be charged as an adult from 17 years of age.

What does this mean?

  • If you are charged with an offence, the police do not have to tell your parents where you are
  • The police do not have to find a support person for you if you decide to do a police interview
  • You have to go to adult courts and receive adult punishments  
  • You can even end up in an adult gaol 

These laws apply to you even if you are just visiting. 

Call the Youth Hotline

Call 1800 10 18 10

The Hotline provides legal advice and information to young people under 18, and operates 9am to midnight weekdays, with a 24-hour service from Friday 9am to Sunday midnight and also on public holidays.