Blue Line: Clarification on the AFP age determination process

Release Date: Thursday, January 06 2011, 05:55 PM

An article in The Australian newspaper titled 'X-ray age-check tool inaccurate’ today, 6 January states that the Australian Federal Police medical technique used to determine the physical maturity of boat people who claim to be underage is not accurate. The AFP would like to clarify the process used.

The AFP utilises the statute powers granted in the Crimes Act 1914 within Division 4A – Determining a Persons Age.

Where a person who is the subject of an investigation claims to be a juvenile and the AFP suspects that the person may have committed a Commonwealth offence, age determination procedures can be undertaken with the consent of the person, the consent of a parent or guardian, or if a parent or guardian is not acceptable an independent adult person (other than the AFP or investigating official).

A judge or magistrate presiding over the related proceeding who is satisfied that it is necessary to determine the persons age may make an order requiring the carrying out of age determination procedures. 

The current age determination process requires a wrist x-ray to be undertaken on all persons who claim to be a juvenile. The process involves utilising the “Radiographic Atlas of Skeletal Development of the Hand and Wrist” by Gruelich and Pyle. The AFP relies upon an independent medical expert to interpret the x-ray and determine the age of the person. The Gruelich and Pyle test provides an assessment of age between 11 and 19 years.  The AFP relies upon the report that is then generated by the medical expert determining the age of the person.

Where a person tests at 19 years of age the AFP will typically proceed with the charging of this person as an adult in accordance with the CDPP Prosecution Policy of the Commonwealth and a brief of evidence is submitted by the AFP to the CDPP.

This method of age determination has been tested and successful before Australian courts of law.