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Authority and obligations of a police officer in removing a young person from a public place

This article provides an overview of the authority and obligations of a police officer in removing a young person from a public place if that person is considered under the circumstances to be at risk and further action to be taken under the Children (Protection and Parental Responsibility) Act 1997.

This article further aims to give a brief discussion on to what extent the police officer is obligated to do after removing a young person from public places and the limitations on its authority to effect the provisions of the applicable law.


The law

A police officer must safely escort a young person from a public place to his or her parent’s house or, if applicable, to his or her close relative if he or she is considered to be at risk. Under the Children (Protection and Parental Responsibility) Act 1997, a police officer may remove a person from any public place in an operational area if the police officer believes on reasonable grounds that the person:

(a) is not subject to the supervision or control of a responsible adult, and
(b) is in the public place in circumstances that place the person at risk.

The police officer may affect this obligation under the law if the person to be removed in a public place in an operational area and he believes on reasonable grounds that a person is under the age of 16.

Guiding principle

In all endeavours of the police officer to remove a young person from any public place and to escort him or her to his or her parent, he has to bear in mind the guiding principle provided by the law. He has to take into consideration the safety and the best interest of the young person. Thus, a police officer who removes a person from a public place must use his or her best endeavours to escort the person to the home of a parent, relative or other person who is responsible for caring for the person and to leave the person in the care of the parent, relative or other responsible person. (Section 21 (1))

When may a person considered at risk?

A person is considered at risk if:
(a) the person is in danger of being physically harmed or injured, or
(b) the person is in danger of abuse (including assault and sexual assault, ill-treatment and exposure to behaviour that may cause psychological harm to the person), or
(c) the person is about to commit an offence. (Section 19 (3))

What is next after removing from a public place?

A police officer who removes a person to whom this Division applies from any public place may escort (or arrange for another police officer to escort) the person to the residence of a parent of the person or if the person has a carer, his or her care residence and leave the person there. (Section 22 (1) The police officer must not leave the residence of a parent of a person unless he is sure that the parent is a parent and willing to take care of the person or satisfied that the person would be safe even without the presence of the parent.

The police officer must bring the person to that person’s close relative if, after bringing him or her to his or her parent’s house, a parent is not available or is not willing to take care of the person.
The limitation

A police officer who removes a person from a public place must not in any circumstances escort (or arrange for another police officer to escort) the person to, or leave the person at, a police station or the escorting would be detrimental to the best interest of the young person.

Use of force

A police officer is authorized by the law to use necessary force to remove a young person from a public place. However, this authority should go side by side with the principle that the removal of a young person should be for his best interest. (Section 28)

Disclaimer : This article is just a summary of the subject matter being discussed and should not be regarded as a comprehensive legal advice for you to defend yourself alone. If you are charged with criminal offences, it is recommended that you seek legal assistance from criminal lawyers.

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