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Youth Crime / Youth Court

The youth offending system is different from adult law courts so it’s important to get legal advice from a solicitor which deals specifically with youth crime. Russell & Russell’s team has a number of solicitors who act for young offenders. 

What’s the youth court?

It’s a special court for those aged from 10 up to under 18. With the exception of the most serious cases, such as murder, rape and violent robbery, it deals with all types of criminal offences alleged to have been committed by a young person. Unless charged with an adult, a young person will almost always appear before the youth court. As there are a number of things that are differ from an adult court, it’s important to have specialist legal representation.

What are the differences between the adult court and the youth court?

In the youth court, your case will always be heard by either a magistrate or a District Judge, never by a judge and jury. If you’re a defendant, you’ll be called by your first name. Only those directly involved in your case - the prosecutor, the youth offending team, court staff and your defence solicitor - are allowed in court when your case is being heard. Unlike the adult courts, the youth court is private. 

The press can’t, unless in exceptional circumstances, report on cases and the public can’t observe cases. In addition, you must, unless in very limited circumstances, attend youth court with your parent or guardian. This is partly to ensure that you understand the proceedings, but also because the youth court can impose orders on your parent or guardian in respect of you.

Will I go to prison?

The principle behind youth court is that sentences that involve detention are a last resort. Similarly, bail will only be withheld in the most serious cases or in particular circumstances. The youth court has the power to impose a range of sentences, such as a conditional discharge which is an agreement with the court to stay out of trouble with consequences if that doesn’t happen. It can also pass community based sentences and detention and training orders for a maximum of two years. 

The type of sentence you’ll face depends on your age, your plea, your previous record if you have one, your response to previous orders of the youth court, the nature and seriousness of the offences before the youth court and your personal circumstances.

Will I have a criminal record?

If you’re accused of a crime and are appearing before the youth court for the first time, pleading guilty to the offence (except for the most serious of cases), you’re likely to receive a referral order, which is a community based sentence designed to work on a number of aspects of your offending behaviour. Successful completion of a referral order means your conviction becomes ‘spent’ for the purposes of declaring it in job interviews, college and university applications and for anything that requires you to declare previous convictions. 

Generally, a conviction resulting in a referral order won’t have to be declared, but this is a complex area of law which requires specialist advice. For other sentences, different rehabilitation periods apply before convictions become spent. Again, we can provide specialist advice on this.

What do I have to pay for my solicitor to represent me in the youth court?

Nothing. We’ll make an application for legal aid in criminal proceedings on your behalf. It’s probable that there’ll be some financial implications of your actual court case, but depending on your age these are likely to apply to your parent or guardian in respect of prosecution costs and compensation. We can advise you in relation to this.

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