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Youth justice and offending

How the Youth Justice Service and youth criminal justice process work if you have committed an offence.

The Youth Justice Service works with young people aged 10-17 to prevent and reduce youth crime.  

Their work involves:

  • helping young people understand why they have got into trouble, what needs to change so they don't get into trouble again and help them to put things right with those affected by crime
  • working with parents and carers to help prevent their children from getting into further trouble
  • supporting the victims of youth crime.

The youth criminal justice process

How you will be dealt with will depend on how serious the offence is.

Youth Caution 

Children aged 10-17 can be given a youth caution if they admit a criminal offence. The child will also be referred to the Youth Justice Service. 

Youth Conditional Caution 

These cautions come with one or more conditions attached, for example, intervention sessions, reparation or substance misuse assessment. If the child does not comply, they can be prosecuted for the original offence. All children who receive conditional cautions will be referred to the Youth Offending Service.

If you are under 17 you will need to be accompanied by an appropriate adult; this is usually a parent, carer or volunteer appointed by the Youth Justice Service. 

Referral orders

A referral order can last from 3 months to 12 months. It is a sentencing option for children who have pleaded guilty to an offence. If given a referral order a child is referred to a Youth Offender Panel with a parent. The child agrees a contract with the panel. If the contract is breached the child is put before the court again.

What to expect and how to behave in court

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Youth Rehabilitation Order

These are community-based sentences for children that can take many forms including supervision, curfew, unpaid work and electronic tagging.

Prison sentence

Any child can be sentenced to custody in either a Secure Training Centre or a Young Offenders Institution. When they are released they are supervised by the Youth Justice Service on licence. 

There are alternatives to custody which include intensive custody or intense supervision.

Other sites that might be useful

Last updated:
19 January 2024
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