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What offences are dealt with by the Youth Court

Having to spend time in a court is a difficult experience for any young person to deal with, however, sometimes young people find themselves appearing in front of a Youth Court for minor offences and if you find your loved one in this situation, it’s important to get the right advice by trained professionals.

What are youth courts and what makes them different from ‘normal’ courts?

Under UK law, children under the age of 10 are deemed too young to be arrested or charged with a criminal offence. That being said, should one be committed, there are sanctions that can be placed on the child such as a Local Child Curfew or a Child Safety Order. In certain cases the child could be taken into care or in extreme cases, parents can be held responsible for their child's actions and tried in a criminal court.

From the age of 10 years old a young person is deemed to be Criminally Responsible which means that they can be taken to court if they commit a crime. From 10-17 young people are most likely to be tried in a Youth Court unless their crime is of a serious nature where it could be tried in a Crown Court.

In Youth Court, the proceedings are a little less formal, there isn’t a jury and there are restrictions on who is allowed into the court. Restrictions include the child not being named publicly by reporters and members of the public aren’t allowed in unless they have been given prior consent.

What offences are dealt with by the youth court?

In 2017/2018 around 11,000 youth cautions were given for a number of offences and unfortunately there were increases across a lot of crimes that included carrying offensive weapons and behavioural management incidents. The most common cases brought to a youth court include;

  • Theft
  • Burglary
  • Anti-social behaviour
  • Drugs offences

What offences aren’t dealt with by the youth court?

Crimes of a more serious nature including murder or rape are usually started in a youth court but passed onto a Crown Court. Where an older person over the age of 18 is charged with the same crime, offenders under the age of 18 can be dealt with by a Magistrates Court.

What sentences can young people receive?

Young people between the ages of 10-17 are given a number of sentences based on the seriousness of their crimes, some of the most common sentences given are;

  • Discharge - absolute or conditional
    • In the same vein as the adult sentencing, absolute discharge is where technically a crime has been deemed to have been committed however any punishment would be inappropriate.
    • Conditional discharge is the same however there is no sentencing on the premise that another offence is not committed within a given time period.
  • Fines are often given and always reflect the offence and the offender’s capacity to pay. Parents/guardians are responsible if the offender is under 16
  • Referral orders - where the offender attends a youth offender panel and signs a contract containing actions that are put in place to improve their behaviour
  • Youth rehabilitation orders - a community sentence made up of a series of demands the offender must comply with over a given period of time.

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