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Police questioning

A child who is being questioned by the police has the same rights as an adult not to answer questions unless specifically required to by some Act or other law, see ARREST, YOUR RIGHTS AND BAIL, Arrest and questioning. This means that the child must tell the police his or her name and address, but does not have to answer questions about the alleged offence.

It would be unwise to answer any questions about an alleged offence before obtaining legal advice.

In addition to the other state laws relating to investigation, arrest, bail and remand, s 14 of the Young Offenders Act 1993 (SA) states that the police must, as soon as possible after the arrest of a youth, explain the nature of the allegations against him or her, and inform the youth of his or her right to seek legal representation. The police must take all reasonable steps to ensure that the child is only interviewed in the presence of a parent or guardian or, if not available, an adult person nominated by the child (and who has a close association with the child) or a person from the Department for Child Protection. Statements made to police by a child when a guardian or other adult is not present may not be accepted as evidence by a court in many cases.


A police officer can, without a warrant, arrest a youth who is reasonably suspected of having committed an offence. In doing so the officer can enter or break into any place and use as much force as is reasonably necessary. The police have similar powers in relation to the investigation of a crime suspected of having been committed by a youth and in the questioning of a youths as they have for adults, see ARREST, YOUR RIGHTS AND BAIL, Arrest and questioning.


The Bail Act 1985 (SA) applies to both adults and youth. A youth who has been arrested can apply for and be granted bail on his or her own recognisance (either with or without a guarantor), that is on the condition that the youth will appear in court at a specified date, place and time.

Conditions of bail agreements in the Youth Court may include provisions only rarely if ever ordered in adult matters such as:

  • curfew restrictions;
  • to be under the supervision by an officer from Youth Justice and to obey that officers lawful directions;
  • to participate in drug and/or alcohol counselling or other programs, projects or activities as directed by the supervising Youth Justice officer;
  • to obey house rules at the nominated placement where the youth is required to reside;
  • not to enter specified geographical areas - for example, the Adelaide City square mile;
  • to attend school as directed by the supervising Youth Justice officer;
  • to live at a suitable residence with adequate supervision.

Home detention bail now applies in Youth Court applications for release on bail but electronic monitoring facilities are limited.

Where bail is not granted, the youth is detained separately from adult prisoners. They are to be held in a Training Centre until the matter can next be heard by the Youth Court. If it is not possible for the youth to be taken to a Training Centre, the youth may be detained in a police prison, or police station, watch-house or lock-up approved of by the Minister. However whilst being detained at one of those locations, steps must be taken as are reasonably practicable to keep the youth from coming into contact with any adult person detained in that location [see Young Offenders Act 1993 (SA) s 15].

For information on the powers of the police when making an arrest, the duty to answer questions asked by the police in the course of their investigations and the rights of an arrested person to apply for bail, see ARREST, YOUR RIGHTS AND BAIL, Arrest and questioning.

See also our factsheet Police and You (covers arrest, interviews, searches and more).

Police questioning  :  Last Revised: Mon Feb 5th 2018
The content of the Law Handbook is made available as a public service for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. See Disclaimer for details. For free and confidential legal advice in South Australia call 1300 366 424.