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Criminal Defence

Youth Courts

Youth Courts

My child has been arrested – what should I do?

If your child is arrested for a criminal offence and they are under 17 years old, the police must tell you as soon as possible. The police should not interview your child until you are present, unless a delay would mean an immediate risk of harm to someone or serious loss of, or damage to, property. In such cases the police have to ensure that an independent 'appropriate adult' is present to make sure your child is treated fairly.

Your child has the same rights to legal advice as an adult and you should make sure they have legal representation at the police station by calling us on 0330 999 4999

Our team of specialist solicitors provides advice, assistance and representation for young people at the police station, youth court, magistrates’ court, Crown Court and on appeal.  We deal with a whole range of youth offending. All of our solicitors are also on a number of Duty Solicitor rotas at a number of courts.

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How will my child be dealt with?

If your child is under 10 years old, they cannot be charged with a criminal offence. If they are 10 or over, they are treated in the same way as any young person under 18 years old.

If it is the first time your child has got into trouble, behaved anti-socially or committed a minor offence, they can be dealt with outside the court system. They can be given a 'pre-court order' which means they'll be formally reprimanded or warned by a police officer. This will be recorded as a criminal record.

If the police charge your child, they will be 'remanded on bail' (allowed to go home) or 'remanded to custody' (made to stay). They will then have to appear at a youth court. If your child pleads guilty or is convicted of the charge, they will be sentenced by the youth court. For more serious offences, the youth court will refer the case to the Crown Court.

If your child is jointly charged with an adult, they will be dealt with in an adult court.

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What happens if my child is remanded in custody?

If your child has offended many times before, or if the crime they have been charged with is very serious, it is likely they will be remanded in custody. They won’t be sent to an adult prison, but sent to a secure centre for young people.

Sometimes, the court may decide your child must be looked after by the local council. This is another kind of remand to custody. The court can tell the local council they have to keep your child in a secure centre that is run by the council. However, the council can’t send a child to a secure centre unless the court allows them.

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What happens to me at a Youth Court?

If you are charged with a crime and have to go to court, your parents will get a 'summons' for you to attend the Youth Court. A youth court is less formal than an adult magistrates' court or a Crown Court. Members of the public aren’t allowed in to the court room.

When you arrive at court you must be with a parent or guardian and your defence lawyer. Someone from the local youth offending team will also be with you.

A court usher will call you into the courtroom and the court’s legal adviser will read out the offence you’ve been charged with, and ask you whether you wish to admit or deny the charge – this is your ‘plea’.

Usually three magistrates will hear you case, but sometimes a district judge will do this instead.

The magistrates or judge will:

  • listen to all the evidence
  • decide whether you are guilty or not guilty (there is no jury)
  • if you are guilty, decide what sentence to give you

For serious crimes, the youth court may decide that the case has to go to the Crown Court. If this happens, a new date will be set for your case. In the meantime you will be put on ‘remand’, and either allowed to go home (on ‘bail’) or kept in custody.

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How are sentences for young people decided?

If you have admitted or been found guilty of a crime, the court will give you a 'sentence'. This could be a sentence that you serve in the community, rather than being locked up. Or it could be a sentence where you are locked up - a ‘custodial’ sentence.

Before deciding on a sentence, the court will need to learn about your background. To do this, they read a report called a Pre-Sentence Report. The court will use this report when deciding what kind of sentence to give.

The youth offending team, who will have been involved in your case, write the report. Your parents might be asked questions to help them complete the report.

Sometimes the youth offending team will have the report ready, so the court can make their decision straight away, but if the youth offending team needs more time to write the report, or the court asks them for more information, you will have to come back to court again to hear your sentence. In the meantime you will be put on ‘remand’, and either allowed to go home (on ‘bail’) or kept in custody.

The kind of sentence you get will depend on:

  • if you admitted the crime
  • how serious the crime is
  • your age
  • whether you have committed crimes before
  • if you have shown that you are sorry
  • your background and personal circumstances

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What is mitigation?

The court will also look at any 'mitigating' circumstances, which means circumstances that may have led you to commit the crime, such as:

  • family circumstances
  • experiences at school
  • neighbourhood problems
  • health issues

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Crown Court Advocacy

We work with a number of independent barristers. We also have a team of in-house advocates – both barristers and solicitors – who can present your case. The decision on who should represent you in the Crown Court is one that we believe we should make together with the client.  We need to match the needs of your case with the skills of the chosen advocate.

We also have a number of highly experienced legal executives with a wealth of knowledge for preparing cases not only in the Crown Court but the Court of Appeal as well.

Please call our emergency number for immediate representation at a police station by ringing 0330 999 4999. 

Joanne Gibbons

Joanne Gibbons

Partner joanne.gibbons@ibblaw.co.uk 01895 207866