If a young person is charged with a criminal offence, they will appear before the Youth Court. The Youth Court ordinarily deals with all matters involving a young person, until they reach the age of 18 unless the matter is exceptionally serious. More serious sexual offences, GBH, drugs and more serious violent matters are sometime sent to the Crown Court for a trial or sentence. Anyone under the age of 10 years old cannot be charged with a criminal offence. All young persons are entitled to Legal Aid which would cover their costs for legal representation at Court for any imprisonable offences. They are entitled to free independent legal advice and representation.
If a young person is due to appear before the Youth Court, they will be required to attend with a parent or guardian. There will also be a member of the Youth Offending Team present at the Youth Court hearing. The Youth Offending Team (YOT) are similar to the Probation Service but help those under 18 years old. Youth Courts are designed to be less formal than a Magistrates’ and Crown Court and do not have a jury. It is important for a young person to have a solicitor at Court to safeguard their legal rights, to legally advise them as well as to guide them in what may be an unfamiliar situation. Our Solicitors are highly experienced in dealing with Youth Court matters. Members of the Public are not permitted to come into the Youth Court and the matter will be heard by either three Magistrates’ or a District Judge. Only the young person and their family or carers are allowed to be in the Court alongside the Solicitors, Magistrates, legal teams and YOT.
At the hearing, the young person will be invited into the Court by the Court Usher. Both the young person’s parent or guardian and legal representative will also be present. In Court, the alleged offence will be read out to the young person by the legal advisor. They will then be asked whether they accept or deny the offence that has been put to them. This is their ‘plea’. If they accept that they have committed the offence, the matter may be adjourned for sentencing and a Pre-Sentence Report may be ordered. A Pre-Sentence Report would be conducted by the Youth Offending Team and would cover the background of the young person, any mitigating features as well as the particulars of the offence. This report would then be made available for the Magistrates’ or the Judge to consider prior to passing a sentence. At a sentencing hearing, the Magistrates’ or Judge would then decide on the sentence, having consideration of the Pre-Sentence Report and the evidence which may include any previous convictions, remorse and personal circumstances. There are different sentences available in the Youth Court from Referral orders which are the lowest form of punishment, to intervention by the YOT with a Youth Rehabilitation Orders, Supervision Orders, Unpaid Work and Detention and Training Orders.
If the young person denies the offence, they would enter a ‘not guilty plea’ and the matter would be adjourned for a trial at a later date. During this period, our experienced Solicitors would work with both the young person and their parent or guardian to build their defence case prior to their trial. It is important that the young person is legally represented, as Court procedures can be both difficult and overwhelming for the young person to understand. At trial, the matter would be heard by three Magistrates’ or a District Judge rather than a jury. If the young person is convicted of the offence, the matter would proceed to sentencing either on the day, or at a later date if a Pre-Sentence Report is ordered.
Sometimes despite being charged with an offence, Solicitors can persuade the CPS not to proceed with a matter through the Courts and ask for the matter to be sent back to the police for either a Youth Caution or an out of Court disposal, with the assistance of the Youth Offending Team. Even if a person is charged with an offence the matter can result in an out of Court disposal or even result in the prosecution agreeing that they shouldn’t proceed with a particular matter.
Our solicitors are very experienced in Youth Court work and know how scary it can be to be charged with offences and have to go through these processes. If you require assistance at a Youth Court or even at the police station please do not hesitate to contact our experienced Solicitors who will be able to assist you on 01702 338338 or 01702 342525.