Youth justice system

Journey through the Youth Justice System

August 30, 2016



The Police Sergeant at the Police station must explain your rights. You have the right to:

  • Get free legal advice (consult with a legal advisor- free of charge).
  • Have someone informed you have been arrested.
  • See the rules the police must follow (‘Codes of Practice’).

You’ll be searched and your possessions will be kept by the detention officer while you’re in the cell, and you will be subjected to DNA & Fingerprints taken and could be subjected to a full body strip search depending on the offence.



How long you can be held in custody

  • The Police can hold you for up to 24 hours before they have to charge you with a crime or release you.
  • They can apply to hold you for up to 36 or 96 hours if you’re suspected of a serious crime, e.g. murder.
  • You can be held without charge for up to 14 days if you’re arrested under the Terrorism Act.

Giving fingerprints, photographs and samples

  • The Police have the right to take photographs of you. They can also take fingerprints and a DNA sample (e.g. from a mouth swab or head hair root) from you as well as swab the skin surface of your hands and arms. They don’t need your permission to do this.
  • The Police need both your permission and the authority of a senior police officer to take samples like blood or urine, or to take dental impressions.

This doesn’t apply when they take a blood or urine sample in connection with drink or drug driving.

 When you can be released on bail

  • The police can release you on Police bail if there’s not enough evidence to charge you. You don’t have to pay to be released on Police bail, but you’ll have to return to the station for further questioning when asked. They may also give you conditions in your bail which you must comply with. This means your freedom will be restricted in some way, e.g. they can impose a curfew on you if your offence was committed at night
  • You can be refused bail if the Police charge you and think that you may commit another offence, fail to turn up at court, intimidate other witnesses or obstruct the course of justice. If this happens you will be put before the next available Court where your situation will be reviewed. If you are arrested on a Saturday this may mean you are held in custody until a Monday.


young people under the age of 18 and vulnerable adults will need the presence of an Appropriate Adult during the interview process.

  • The police must try to contact your parent, guardian or carer if you’re under 18 or a vulnerable adult.
  • An appropriate adult can be:
  • Your parent, guardian or carer or a social worker,
  • Another family member or friend aged 18 or over,
  • A volunteer aged 18 or over who are not employed by the Police or involved in the investigation.

It is very important that you have a legal representation (solicitor) present during interview. Even if you say “no” your AA may insist on one being present.

Your rights when being questioned

The police may question you about the crime you’re suspected of – this will be recorded via the tape machine. You don’t have to answer any of the officers interviewing’s questions but there could be consequences if you don’t. The police must explain this to you by reading you the police caution:

“You do not have to say anything. But, it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence.”



There are two ways in which you may be brought before the Youth Court:

  • Summons – Usually you will get a written summons from the court. This will be posted to you or handed to you personally. The summons tells you what offences you have been charged with and gives the day and time that you have to be at court and the address of the Court building.
  • Arrest – The Police may take you into custody. They will usually then release you on bail, sometimes with conditions, until the court hearing. Details of the court hearing will be on your bail notice. Details of the offences with which you have been charged will be shown on your charge sheet.


  • It is advisable to get to Court half an hour before the time you have been given.
  • When you arrive, go to the reception and tell them that you are there.
  • At least one of your parents (or guardians) must come to Court with you, if you are 17 years of age this is not compulsory, but still advisable. If no one attends with you, the case may be put off (adjourned) to another day.


  • Consider getting a solicitor to speak for you in court. You may qualify for free legal advice, usually after you have been in police custody your solicitor you had may transfer with you to court or someone from the same company will give legal advice.
  • Duty Solicitor at Court may also be available if you don’t have a solicitor.
  • Don’t be shy about contacting a solicitor, it is their job to deal with such matters.
  • Make sure that you show the solicitor any charge/ summons papers.
  • There are other local solicitors that you may have used before they are also available if you wish to eat.


  • Courts are very formal. If you want to make good impression in court the following points may be helpful:
  • Try to be neat and tidy in your dress and appearance, (No hoods and switch mobiles off).
  • Don’t put your hands in your pockets, it is best to keep them by your side.
  • Don’t eat or chew gum in court.
  • When you are speaking to the Magistrates, address them as ‘Sir’ or ‘Madam’.
  • Do not be afraid to ask if you do not understand anything.
  • It can be explained to you.
  • If you or your parent/guardian or other adult attending with you do not speak or understand English well, ask for an interpreter.
  • Youth Courts are closed Courts where no members of the public other than your parent(s)/carer(s) are allowed in when it is in session. The press may be there but are not allowed, unless the Court say, to give any personal details about you. This only happens on very rare occasions.

Guilty or not


When you first go into Court the Clerk will check your name, address and date of birth and will then read out the offences with which you are charged. You will then be asked whether you wish to plead ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty’.

You can then do one of three things:

  • You can ask for a delay (an adjournment) to give you time to talk to a solicitor about your case. If you are unsure about what to do or if you have not spoken to a solicitor, it is best to ask for an adjournment.
  • You can deny the offence (plead ‘not guilty’). The case will then be adjourned to a later date for a ‘Pre-trial review’ or a full trial when witnesses can be called by both yourself and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
  • You can admit the offence (plead ‘guilty’). You should NOT do this unless you have first discussed it with a solicitor. If you plead guilty you may be dealt with there and then. Sometimes the case will be put off until a later date to allow the Court to find out more about you.

Bail Conditions – Sometimes if the YOT or Magistrates think you may get into more trouble or you might upset witnesses/ victims they will set out ‘conditions’ that you will need to follow – if you don’t keep to these conditions you will be arrested and might not get released again.


  • These are prepared by a worker from the Youth Offending Team and will give the Magistrates relevant information about you. There may be a separate report from school (where applicable).
  • When talking to the person writing the report, remember that anything that is relevant can be included in the report. Don’t forget to mention the good things about yourself.
  • When you come before the Court to be sentenced you and your parent/ guardian will be given a copy of the report. You should read it very carefully. A Youth Offending Team worker will be at court and will assist you if you have difficulties reading.
  • If you feel any part of the report is wrong or unfair, speak to the officer present at Court and to your solicitor.
  • There is no guarantee that what the PSR says will happen as it only advises what to do and possible sentencing options.


  • If you are found guilty or if you plead guilty the Crown Prosecutor will tell the Magistrates about the offence(s) and whether you have any previous convictions or Police cautions. If you disagree with anything they read out you should tell your solicitor immediately.
  • Your solicitor will then speak for you, giving the Magistrates any reasons or explanations concerning your behaviour. Any reports available will also be read.
  • When the evidence from both sides has been heard the Magistrates will then retire (leave the courtroom) to reach a decision. They will take into account the seriousness of the offence, any previous record, your general behavior and the likelihood of your offending again. When they return you should stand up and remain standing whilst they give their decision.

Court Hammer


Courts have a range of different sentences they can give offenders aged 10-17. These include:

  • Fine – as with adults, the fine should reflect the offence committed and the offender’s ability to pay. For offenders under 16, paying the fine is the responsibility of a parent/guardian and it will be their ability to pay that is taken into account when setting the level of the fine;
  • Referral Order – this requires the offender to attend a youth offender panel (made up of two members of the local community and an advisor from a youth offending team) and agree a contract, containing certain commitments, which will last between three months and a year. The aim is for the offender to make up for the harm caused and address their offending behavior. An order must be imposed for a first time young offender who has pleaded guilty (unless the court decides that another sentence is justified) and may be imposed in other circumstances.
  • Youth Rehabilitation Order – this is a community sentence which can include one or more of 18 different requirements that the offender must comply with for up to three years. Some examples of the requirements that can be imposed are a curfew, supervision, unpaid work, electronic monitoring, drug treatment, mental health treatment and education requirements.
  • Custodial Sentences – young offenders can receive custodial sentences but they will only be imposed in the most serious cases. When they are given, they aim to provide training and education and rehabilitate the offender so they don’t reoffend. Sentences can be spent in secure children’s homes, secure training centers and young offender institutions.
  • If a young person between 12 and 17 years old is sentenced in the youth court, a Detention and Training Order (DTO) is available. This can last between four months and two years.
  • In the Crown Court, a Detention and Training Order (DTO) can also be given – the same as in the youth court.


Detention and Training Orders:

  • (Ages 12 – 17) A period of time between 4 and 24 months, half of which is served in detention, the remainder in the community under the supervision of a Youth Offending Team worker.
  • Parc Secure Training Unit – Location Bridgend South Wales.
  • Vinney Green Secure Training Unit – South Gloucestershire.
  • Oakhill Secure Training Unit – Milton Keynes.

 PARC    Vinney Green    Oakhill


  • The Magistrates in the Youth Court may decide to commit the case to the Crown Court where the sentencing decisions are made by a Judge. They will do this for all very serious offences that might result in longer custodial sentences than those which the Magistrates can impose.
  • If more serious offences in the Crown Court, longer term detention is available where the offence committed carries a maximum sentence of at least 14 years’ imprisonment or is one of the offences listed in section 91 of the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act, 2000.
  • If a young person is convicted of a specified offence and the Crown Court considers that there is a significant risk of serious harm to members of the public from the young person committing further specified offences, then the court may pass a sentence of detention for life or an extended sentence of detention.
  • Detention during Her Majesty’s Pleasure. This is a mandatory life sentence and will be imposed when an offender is convicted or pleads guilty to murder. Schedule 21 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 states that the starting point for determining the minimum sentence where the offender is under 18 years of age, is 12 years as opposed to 15 years for those over the age of 18.

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