Youth courts and sentencing

Out-of-court disposals (before the youth is sent to court)

Generally, the objective of the system is to prevent a youth from becoming a convicted offender. Therefore, there are a number of out-of-court disposals which are available to discourage young people from re-offending. They are as follows but please be aware this is for low-level crime or anti-social behaviour:

  1. Community resolution: This may involve requiring a young person to write a letter of apology to the victim of the crime provided the juvenile has admitted to the offence. This would also depend on the wishes of the victim. 
  2. Youth cautions: This depends on the following:
  3. Sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction
  4. The youth admits the offenc
  5. The police/prosecutor does not consider that the juvenile should be prosecuted and it’s in the public interest to give a youth caution rather than prosecute.

A youth caution is not a conviction but is a formal criminal justice disposal. Under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 youth cautions are ‘spent’ as soon as they are implemented. Therefore, generally there is no requirement on the juvenile to disclose caution unless circumstances for their disclosure comes within the 1974 Act e.g the youth applies for a job involving children and/or vulnerable people.

  • Youth conditional cautions. This can be given provided:
  1. The juvenile has admitted the offence and accept the youth conditional cautions
  2. Police/prosecutors believe that there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction and it’s in the public interest to give the youth a conditional caution
  3. The conditional caution is not a criminal conviction but it will be recorded and form part of the youth’s criminal record and maybe disclosed in certain circumstances and failure to comply with the conditions will result in prosecution
  4. The juvenile must sign a document containing details of the offence and consent to the conditional caution

This must have one or more objectives:

  1. Rehabilitation: to change the juvenile behaviour to reduce the possibility of reoffending

2. Reparation: to repair damage done by the juvenile’s offending to the community at large or directly to the victim
3. Punishment: to punish the young person for their offending by requiring unpaid work or attendance at a specified place. A financial penalty should also be made where rehabilitative and reparative conditions are not suitable.

The Youth Offending Teams (YOT) is involved at every stage of the criminal investigation and procedure. They usually comprise of the police, probation services, social services, education, health authority, housing, drug and alcohol and substance misuse agencies.

The prosecutor will make the final decision whether the youth’s case goes to the courts and the following factors will be considered:

  1. The offence is serious
  2. The suspect’s past record 
  3. Suspect refuses to admit the offence


The Magistrates Court:

Apart from the first section below which outlines the basic procedure of the court, the following should be kept in mind:

  1. The juvenile first appearance will be in adult magistrates court if the person is:
  2. Jointly charged with a adult
  3. Charged with aiding and abetting an adult to commit an offence
  4. Charged with an offence which arises out of the same circumstances or is connected with the offence with which the adult is charged with.

But note that the summary offence may be sent to the youth court where the 

  1. Adult pleads guilty and
  2. The youth pleads not guilty or
  3. The adult is sent for trial or is discharged and the young person pleads not guilty


All youths are entitled to bail (conditional or unconditional) at their first court appearance. However, bail could be refused if the offence is serious or if the youth has previously breached his bail conditions. Bail can also be refused where the youth should be kept in custody for their own protection and welfare. Note that for an offender aged 17, adult bail provisions will apply.

If bail is refused, the youth will be sent to a youth detention accommodation or in local authority accommodation. A child aged 10 to 11 must be remanded in local authority accommodation. 12-17 may be remanded in youth detention accommodation where the child is charged with a serious offence or has a history of offending whilst on bail.

Electronic tagging (conditional bail) may be imposed on 12-17 year olds but a child aged 10-11 there is no power to impose a tagging condition.


From :

Youth courts 

A youth court is a special type of magistrates’ court for people aged between 10 and 17.

A youth court has either:

  • 3 magistrates
  • a district judge

There is not a jury in a youth court.

Your parent or guardian must come with you:

  • if you’re under 16
  • if you’re 16 to 17 and they’re given a court order

How youth courts are different from adult courts

Youth courts are less formal than adult courts, for example:

  • members of the public are not allowed in to the court (unless they get permission)
  • you are called by your first name

Types of cases a youth court deals with

A youth court deals with cases like:

  • theft and burglary
  • anti-social behaviour
  • drugs offences

For serious crimes, like murder or rape, the case starts in the youth court but will be passed to a Crown Court.

Sentences a youth court can give (See below for more details)

The court can give a range of sentences including:

Appealing a sentence

If you disagree with the court’s verdict, you may be able to appeal. Court staff can give you information on how to appeal.

Sentencing procedure at the youth court in brief

  1. Deferring sentence: Can defer sentence up to 6 months. If another sentence is committed during the period, the offender may be sentenced for the new offence along with the previous offence. This sentence is very rare.
  2. Referral order: The offender is referred to a Youth Offender Panel (YOP) which consists of members of the community and member of YOT (please see above). This involves following a programme with the offender to address as to why he/she offended and how to prevent the youth from re-offending. The order must be between 3 to 12 months. A referral order must be imposed on a ‘first-time offender who pleads guilty.
  3. Fine-Rare because the court will have to consider the offender’s financial circumstances. It is possible that the court will order the parent/guardian to pay the fine. The max fine for the young offender aged between 10-13 is 250 pounds. The max fine between aged 14-17 is 1,000 pounds.
  4. Conditional discharge: For less serious offences. Rare bec youth courts prefer referral orders. The offender must not commit any offence during the period of the conditional discharge which can be up to three years.

  5. Absolute discharge: Appropriate for minor offences where the court considers that punishment is not required.
  6. Reparation order: The court will obtain a YOT report who will suggest a suitable form of reparation. Aim is to confront the offender with the consequence of his/her offending behaviour. This can be only imposed for an imprisonable offence. This involves community work.
  7. Youth rehabilitation order: This can involve a number of options:
  8. Activity requirement: Taking part in number of activities not exceeding 90 days.
  9. Supervision requirement: To attend appointments with a specified YOT officer.
  10. Unpaid work requirement: Only imposed on an offender aged between 16-17. Number of hours between 40 and 240 to completed in a year.
  11. Programme requirement: To participate in a set of activities recommended by YOT
  12. Attendance centre requirement: To attend a centre to engage in and receive instruction. For 16+ the minimum is 12 hours and max 36. For 14 and 15 the minimum is 12 hours and max is 24 and for under 13 the max is 12 hours.
  13. Prohibited activity requirement: To refrain from taking part in certain activities.
  14. Curfew requirement: The offender must stay at a specified location for a period of time between 2-16 hours in any one day. Max length of a curfew is 12 months. This will supported by electronic monitoring.
  15. Exclusion requirement: Prohibits a young person from entering a specified place during a specified time period. The court makes also a monitoring requirement to ensure compliance.
  16. Residence requirement: Only for aged 16 and over. Requires the youth to live with a specified person at a specified place.
  17. Local authority residence requirement: Has to reside in accommodation provided by local authority for a specified period which cannot exceed 6 months. If the offender reaches 18, this ceases to apply.
  18. Electronic monitoring requirement: This will be imposed as part of a curfew, exclusion or attendance centre requirement.
  19. Mental health treatment requirement: Offender willingness to comply and requirement of residential or non-residential treatment for a diagnosed mental condition.
  20. Drug treatment requirement: Court must be satisfied that the youth requires treatment and he/she complies with the conditions of the treatment.
  21. Intoxicating substances treatment: The court must be satisfied that the youth is dependent on intoxicating substances and that the offender has expressed a willingness to comply.
  22. Education requirement: Comply with approved educational arrangements made by parent or guardian and approved by the local education authority.
  23. Intensive supervision and surveillance requirement: This is requirement where it is an imprisonable offence and where the offender is under the age of 15 at the time of conviction and the offender is a persistent offender. This is an alternative to custody.


Detention and Training order: Main custodial sentence for a young offender. 

A court cannot pass a DTO on an offender under the age of 12 or on an offender age 15 unless the youth is a persistent offender (convicted, cautioned in respect of an imprisonable offence on at least three occasions for the past 12 months).


Other sentencing possibilities:

  1. Compensation order: A young offender may be ordered to pay compensation up to a maximum of 5000 in the magistrate’s court for personal injury or loss or damage which resulted in his/her offence. The court will consider the youth’s financial circumstances.
  2. Parenting orders: Directed at parenting skills of the offender’s parents/guardian. If offender is under 16 is convicted of an offence the court might consider that a parenting order would be desirable then it shall make a parenting order for up to 12 months. The sessions will be supervised by YOT.
  3. Parental bind over: The youth’s parent or guardian must be bound over to prevent the youth under the age 16 from committing further offences.
  4. Anti-social behaviour order: Prohibits a young person from doing anything specified in the order. This is made when the court considers that the youth has acted in a manner that has caused or likely to have caused harassment, alarm or distress.
  5. Crown Court: The Crown Court has the full range of sentencing powers available to it. The Crown Court can impose lengthy custodial sentences in excess of 24 months for serious crimes. The only court which can pass a custodial sentence on an offender under the age of 12 or under the age of 15 and who is not a persistent offender is the Crown Court.