Working with young adults: Turning 18 in the criminal justice system

About the issue

Children under 18 years old receive many special protections under the law. The vast majority of these protections fall away on the child’s 18th birthday when, overnight, for legal purposes, they become an ‘adult’. This change in legal status has a profound effect on those going through legal processes and for those who are in custody. For care experienced children this will coincide with transitions from social and other services, often described as a “cliff-edge”. See the section on Transitions for more information.

The image below summarises the differences between the youth and adult justice systems:

(Image used with the kind permission of Crest Advisory)