Going to a youth court

A youth court is for children between 10 and 17 years old.

After you are charged by the police and summoned to the magistrates court your case will be transferred to youth court. A youth court will deal with offences including theft and burglary, anti-social behaviour and drugs offences. More serious offences are usually transferred to Crown Court.

It is important to go to court. If you fail to attend, a warrant can be issued for your arrest. This means the police can arrest you for not attending and then take you to court. This can often mean being held in the police station overnight.

Youth courts work differently to adult courts, for example:

  • you will be called by your first name
  • you can take parents, carers or an appropriate adult (who is over 18 years old) with you
  • members of the public are not allowed in the courtroom
  • the media (like journalists from newspapers or TV) are not allowed to report on your case, except in exceptional circumstances and only when given permission by the magistrates or judge.

You can watch this video that explains what happens and what to expect when you go to court.

Things to remember when attending court

  • Make sure you are on time

  • It is a good idea to wear smart clothes to make a good impression

  • You can take your parents or an appropriate adult (anyone over the age of 18) with you to court

  • There will be a member of the Youth Justice Service there to help and support you

  • You will need go through security before entering the court. You and your bags will be checked and scanned

  • You might have to wait, so bring something to keep you busy and something to eat

Who will be in court

  • You

  • Your parent, carer or appropriate adult

  • Your solicitor or duty solicitor

  • The Crown Prosecution Service - they prosecute criminal cases that have been investigated by the police

  • Youth justice court officer - they will support you in court

  • 3 magistrates or 1 judge - these are the people who will make the decisions in court

  • Legal advisor - someone who gives legal advice to the magistrates or judge

Solicitors

All children are entitled to a free duty solicitor. A solicitor will:

  • go through what the police and witnesses say happened and your side of the story
  • help decide on a plea - if you want to say you are guilty or not
  • speak on your behalf in court.

It is always recommended to have a solicitor represent you. You can request a duty solicitor at court, but it is advised you arrange a solicitor ahead of your court hearing.

You can find a solicitor on the the Law Society website. The hourly rates charged by solicitors depends on the experience of the solicitor you choose. Check the current guideline rates on the GOV.UK website.

Bail

Bail means you are not in custody while you are waiting for your trial or to be sentenced. Being on bail gives you a chance to stay in the community.

You will be granted conditional or unconditional bail.

Conditional bail means there are rules you need to follow, for example:

  • being home by a certain time
  • not being allowed to go to certain places
  • you might have to attend appointments with the Youth Justice Team
  • you might have to stay at a certain address.

We will support you with the rules of your bail, if you do not follow the rules the court will be informed.

Trial

A trial is when different people (like magistrates and solicitors) come together in a courtroom to decide if you have committed a crime or not.

The prosecutor is the solicitor who tries to prove that you, the defendant, is guilty of breaking the law. The defence lawyer argues that the court can't be sure that you did what you are accused of.

Both solicitors (the prosecutor and the defence) make their argument to the magistrates. The solicitors do this by showing evidence - this could be anything, such as a photograph or something the police found.

The solicitors will also talk to witnesses and ask them questions in front of the magistrates. A witness is someone who may have seen something to do with the crime.

After both solicitors have each made their argument, the magistrates decide if you are innocent or guilty. If they find you guilty, the magistrates then decide on the punishment.

Sentences and reparation (giving something back)

It is the judge’s job to decide what the punishment should be. For example you might complete an order, pay some money as a fine or go into custody. The punishment is called the sentence.

The court can give you a range of sentences.Find out more about the possible sentences that can be given to you.

This will also include some kind of reparation you have to complete to give something back for the offence and to help repair the harm. Find out more about reparation and restorative justice.

If you turn 18

Youth courts and sentences are for children under 18. If you turn 18 during the process you will be treated as an adult either for court or sentencing.

Arrested as a child but go to court as an adult

If you commit an offence before you turn 18, but your first visit to court is after you have turned 18, you cannot be sentenced in the youth court. You will be sentenced as an adult.

Go to court as a child but are sentenced as an adult

If you commit an offence and you plead guilty or you are found guilty before turning 18, you will be sentenced in the youth court. However, if you get into more trouble after turning 18 and are charged with more offences, or if your court case has been delayed until after you have turned 18 and you have not yet given your plea, you will be sentenced as an adult.

If you are on conditional bail then we will continue to support you until you are sentenced, even if you turn 18. However, if you are on unconditional bail, we will not offer any specific support after you turn 18.