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Introduction

The Legal Services Commission of South Australia provides a duty solicitor service in the Youth Court of South Australia on a full time basis, to ensure that those appearing in the Court are not disadvantaged or denied access to justice.

This chapter contains information about practice and procedure in the criminal and civil jurisdictions of the Youth Court. More specifically, the information relates to young defendants charged with criminal offences, and to care and protection proceedings, highlighting the aim of the Court’s criminal jurisdiction ‘to secure for youths who offend against the criminal law the care, correction and guidance necessary for their development into responsible and useful members of the community and the proper realisation of their potential’ [see Young Offenders Act 1993 s 3(1)].

There is also reference to how young offenders can be diverted away from the criminal law justice system through police cautions, family conferences and other specialist court programs.

OBLIGATIONS WHEN ACTING FOR YOUTH

There are some important points for duty solicitors to bear in mind when taking instructions from a youth.

The duty solicitor must be certain that the youth has a sufficient understanding of the nature of the charge and of the allegations made against them, and that they are capable of making reasoned judgments regarding the legal options available.

The duty solicitor must also be sure that when they proceed to act it is on the youth’s instructions and no-one else’s. It is the youth who is the client, not their parents, guardians or close associates, and not Department for Child Protection personnel. Information that may be gleaned from such sources may assist the duty solicitor when they come to apply for bail or make submissions in mitigation of penalty. However, the opinions of other people should not distract the duty solicitor from, or colour the youth’s instructions. The duty solicitor's professional duty is to the youth alone, and they must act on the youth's instructions only.

Wherever possible, the duty solicitor should see the youth alone when first taking instructions. Where the youth particularly requests the presence of a parent, guardian or associate, the duty solicitor should be careful to make it clear that that such a person may remain present in a supportive capacity, not as an instructor.

Introduction  :  Last Revised: Tue Feb 27th 2018