Out of court orders and sentences for children

If you admit to, or are found guilty of an offence, there are various orders or sentences you can be given, depending on if you go to court and the severity of the offence.

Out of Court Disposals

Out of Court Disposals (OCD) give the police the option to deal quickly and proportionately with low-level, often first-time offending without having to go to court.

The police have a range of options when dealing with offences committed by a child. The police decide which is the most appropriate, usually after we have made an assessment or recommendation to them. We offer support to all children who have received any type of out of court disposal, and to their families. Read more about how we can support you.

Below the different out of court disposals are described:

A Community Resolution (CR) can be given when:

  • you have admitted to the offence
  • it is your first time in trouble
  • you have committed a low-level offence such as anti-social behaviour.

There are 2 types of community resolution, informal and formal.

  • An informal CR means it is dealt with at the time of the incident or on the spot by the police officer.
  • A formal CR means you will be referred to the Youth Justice Team for further support from an allocated practitioner as part of your community resolution, this will include restorative justice.

There are some offences that do not meet the criteria for a community resolution.

  • A Youth Caution (YC) is a formal out of court disposal, meaning it goes through the police panel process.
  • It is given when you have admitted to the offence and there is a chance of being convicted in court. The police will contact us to help them decide if a youth caution should be given.
  • You will be offered interventions with an allocated practitioner as part of your youth caution. This work is voluntary, but if you take part it will support you in understanding what is going on for you and help to keep you and other people safe.
  • Youth cautions will also include restorative justice.

  • A Youth Conditional Caution (YCC) is a formal out of court disposal, meaning it goes through the police panel process, with compulsory conditions attached to it.
  • Like a youth caution, it is given when you have admitted to the offence and there is a chance of being convicted in court.
  • A youth conditional caution will last for 3 months from the date it is given to you at the police clinic.
  • A member of the Youth Justice Team will meet with you to agree what conditions will guide you in making positive choices for your future and to keep you and other people safe. This will also include restorative justice.
  • We will meet with you during your YCC to support you to complete these conditions.

Any out of court disposals, including both formal and informal, will be kept on record by police and may be used in criminal proceedings.

Find out about understanding your criminal record, including when an out of court disposal becomes spent. A conviction is termed as ‘spent’ when the rehabilitation period is over. These spent convictions do not need to be disclosed to employers or when you apply for insurance.

Court sentences

The court can give a range of sentences, known as court orders. The order the court gives depends on the severity of the offence. Below the different court orders are described:

  • You will complete your order in the community.
  • It can last between 3 and 12 months.
  • You will attend an initial panel meeting where you will agree to a contract, which states what you need to do.
  • The contract is aimed at repairing the harm that has been caused and how to address the cause of your offending behaviour.
  • It will start once your contract is agreed at your initial panel meeting.

  • You will complete your order in the community.
  • There will be rules and conditions you need to follow which will be set by the court. For example:
    • not going to specific places
    • not seeing specific people
    • an electronically monitored curfew
    • unpaid work or taking part in activities.
  • It always involves working with us, the Youth Justice Team.
  • The court will tell you how long your order is for. It can last up to 3 years and will start as soon as you are sentenced.

A Youth Rehabilitation Order with intensive supervision and surveillance is a direct alternative to custody. This means that you will be in the community. This order can be used when a serious crime has been committed or lots of crimes.

There are certain things you must do that include:

  • Supervision
    • you will have to meet with your youth justice practitioner and other agencies, like the drug and alcohol service (We Are With You) and the mental health service (CYPMHS).
    • you will be supported with education, training or employment, offending behaviour, restorative justice and other areas to help keep you out of trouble, and to keep you and other people safe.
  • Activity - you will have to meet with your youth justice practitioner and other agencies for up to 25 hours a week, including weekends.
  • Curfew - you have to stay at home between certain hours and/or avoid certain places. Your curfew may be electronically monitored with a tag via GPS. You will need to attend weekly meetings with the police.
  • Exclusion - you may be told you cannot go to certain places. Your location may be electronically monitored with a tag via GPS.

There may be other things you need to do as well.

Custody is reserved for those who have committed the most serious offences or lots of crimes.

  • If you get a custodial sentence in court, you will be taken to the court cells and then taken to the secure estate shortly after you receive your sentence.
  • A secure estate can be a secure training centre, a secure children's home or a youth offending institution.
  • The first half of your sentence will be spent in the secure estate.
  • You will have a dedicated officer in the secure estate who will look after you. They are called a caseworker. They will visit you along with your youth justice practitioner who will be your contact in the secure estate, as well as facilitate any review meetings.
  • While you are in the secure estate you have to attend education and engage in offending behaviour programmes. You will have access to additional support for substance misuse and your mental health.
  • The other part of your sentence will be spent in the community under the supervision of the Youth Justice Team. This is known as 'licence' or 'notice of supervision'.
  • You may also be eligible for early release. This is agreed for good behaviour when you are sentenced to 8 months or more.

  • A Section 90 can only be given if a child is found guilty of murder and a Section 91 is for other serious offences like rape or grievous bodily harm (GBH).
  • These orders are usually given when the court wants to give a sentence longer than 24 months up to life sentence.
  • The youth justice practitioner will meet with you to explain possible outcomes.
  • You will need to attend a youth court who will send your case to the Crown Court.
  • The youth court will then decide if you can be bailed and released into the community, or if you need to be remanded.
  • You will work with a youth justice practitioner while waiting for your court date and they will write a pre-sentence report.
  • You will spend your sentence in custody, but you can be released earlier if you show good behaviour while in custody.
  • Your worker will request an early release by putting your case forward to a Parole Board who will decide if there is enough support in the community.
  • You will still need to work with the youth justice team for the full length of your sentence or until you turn 18 when you will work with the Probation Service.

You might need to pay some money, fines are usually to cover court costs. The maximum amount you will be asked to pay is £1,000 (or up to £250 if you are under 14). Compensation is to fix damage or harm and goes to the victims. It cannot exceed £5,000.

  • This can be paid in various ways, such as on the GOV.UK website or by phone.
  • Parents must pay the fine if you are under 16 years old.
  • The court will take your financial situation into account, so you should be ready to give these details to your solicitor or to the court.

Finishing an order early

Only referral orders and youth rehabilitation orders can be finished early.

Your practitioner may put you forward for early revocation, this means you could finish your sentence early if you:

  • are doing well on your order and have completed all of your goals
  • have not been in any further trouble
  • have paid any fines.

This cannot be done any earlier than half-way through your sentence.

If sentenced to a referral order you will attend an early revocation panel. If agreed by the panel members, you will then attend court for the judge or magistrates to decide whether to end your order early. If your order is ended early, you will not have to work with your youth justice practitioner anymore.