Criminal Law

We help Aboriginal adults, young people and children who come into contact with police or the courts, youth detention or incarceration.

For help with police and court matters, contact us on 1800 765 767. This is a toll-free number.


What is criminal law? 

Criminal law usually involves an alleged crime. A ‘crime’ is considered an offence against the State. A crime usually means there will be a risk of punishment.

Criminal law matters in court are always initiated by the police. If a court case has not been started by police, then it is not a criminal law matter. It might be a care and protection, civil or family law matter.


How we help

The ALS Criminal Law Practice provides legal advice and representation, as well as assistance and referrals in courts, prisons and ALS offices throughout NSW and the ACT. 

We help people who are charged with offences appearing before the Local Court, Children's Court, District Court, Supreme Court, Court of Criminal Appeal and sometimes even the High Court.

Legal assistance is subject to a means and conflict test. 


ALS criminal law team

The ALS is unique because Aboriginal community field officers work alongside lawyers to offer the best and most culturally appropriate legal advice and court representation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. 

For legal help with criminal law matters, please call us on 1800 765 767. 


Other frequently asked questions

Who funds our criminal law services?

ALS acknowledges with gratitude the funding of the Commonwealth Government, NSW Government and ACT Government.

What does 'Conflict of Interest' mean?

A 'conflict of interest' is when a law practice cannot represent both sides in a case. By law, we owe a duty of loyalty to clients to act in their best interests. We cannot do this if we act for the 'other side' in a current matter or if we have acted for the other person previously. It would mean that the lawyers representing each of the parties could access evidence, and use that information against the other party. 

When someone requests legal assistance from our legal practices, one of the first things we do is check for 'conflict of interest'.


What is the Youth Koori Court?

The Youth Koori Court in NSW is a program that provides an alternative to the mainstream court system.

The Youth Koori Court is a diversionary and holistic option available to eligible Aboriginal children and young people in the criminal jurisdiction. The Court has been operating at Parramatta since 2015 and has since expanded to Surry Hills Children’s Court due to its success.

The Youth Koori Court has proven effective among its participants by addressing the underlying social factors contributing to young Aboriginal people entering the justice system, such as lack of access to housing, education, substance abuse and unemployment.



What is the Custody Notification Service?

The Custody Notification Service (CNS) was set up in 2000 in response to the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. 

CNS is a 24-hour legal advice and RU OK phone line for Aboriginal people taken into police custody. Under NSW law, Police must contact the ALS whenever they have taken an Aboriginal person into custody.

When the Police phone our CNS, our clients receive legal advice from an ALS lawyer, ensuring their fundamental legal rights are respected and less Aboriginal people are imprisoned.

●  The ALS lawyer asks our clients: RU OK? Often, the answer is no. Threats of self-harm or suicide are common. Concerns about access to medication are common. Notifications of injuries that need to be examined by health professionals are also common.

●  Our CNS lawyers are trained to carefully respond to these concerns to ensure police meet their duty of care to every Aboriginal person who is taken into custody.

●  Our CNS lawyers can also contact the person’s family and an Aboriginal Field Officer, providing critical information to family who are concerned for that person’s whereabouts, health and safety.

●  Aboriginal men, women and children in custody trust the ALS and share their medical or other concerns with the CNS lawyer, knowing their lawyer will advocate for their legal rights, health and family welfare.

Simply, the CNS is not just a phone line, it’s a lifeline.



Ways to Get Involved