Schoolies gather at The Redfrogs tents in the park at Main Beach Byron Bay, for Schoolies Week 2013.
Schoolies gather at The Redfrogs tents in the park at Main Beach Byron Bay, for Schoolies Week 2013. Patrick Gorbunovs

Enjoy Schoolies, not the slammer: lawyer warns

IT SHOULD be a time of celebration, so don't let it end with a criminal record.

That's the warning a North Coast criminal lawyer wants schoolies to absorb as they prepare for their final HSC exams.

With NSW HSC exams wrapping up this Friday - and Queensland exams also finishing this week - Attwood Marshall Lawyers crime special counsel Richard Smith urged partygoers need to stay vigilant about their safety.

Tweed Byron Police District annually has an influx of extra officers for Schoolies in Byron Bay.

"It's every parents' worst nightmare: sending off a youngster to celebrate the end of their schooling, only for them to call from the police station, or to come home with a court summons," Mr Smith said.

"For many families, such an event can come as a total shock.

"It can be a first-time offence, and totally out of character for their child, with serious ramifications.

"Keeping a 'buddy system' and knowing the law are important factors in partying safely."

Mr Smith said schoolies were often hit with drug and alcohol-related offences, ranging from personal drug use charges to the more serious drug supply offences.

"Drugs charges can have serious ramifications," Mr Smith said.

"A failure to get the court not to record a conviction can mean a young person ends up with a criminal record.

"That offender can have difficulty obtaining certain licences, have problems with future employers' checks, and be barred from visiting some countries."

"Schoolies is a few nights of partying, but a criminal record is for life."

Mr Smith warned online drug transactions could be used by the police to prosecute drug charges.

"It would be extremely naive for school-leavers to think they would go unnoticed by police if they advertise drugs online, with police regularly using private messages and social media posts to support their evidence," he said.

"Police can and will obtain a warrant and arrest you if you have been using an app to sell or buy drugs online."

He said issues of proper consent for sex was also a serious issue for school-leavers.

"If a person over 18 has sexual relations with a person under 16, very serious criminal charges can flow, and they may result in a prison sentence," Mr Smith said.

"Schoolies need to stay safe, know their surroundings, stick in groups with their friends at official venues, and keep a buddy system - where there is always a friend who knows where you are and can call for help if needed.

"If you are approached by police always comply with their instructions."

Mr Smith said schoolies should be particularly aware of:

  • Driving offences: hooning and showing off in a car can mean loss of licence, the car being impounded or can even have deadly consequences.
  • Drugs: drug possession is not about ownership, so saying the drugs 'weren't yours' is no defence. A drugs charge will be looked at by future employers.
  • Assault: being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and getting involved in a fight can lead to an assault charge. Such a charge can mean you cannot enter certain countries, such as the US.
  • Obstructing police or resisting arrest: not complying with police, can easily lead to obstructing police or even a serious assault of police, which then becomes very serious.

Schoolies officially starts on November 17 for Queenslanders, November 18 for WA and November 24 for NSW and Victorian school-leavers.

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