Youth courts are special Magistrates’ Courts for people aged between 10 and 17. A youth court has either three Magistrates or a district judge. There is no jury in a youth court. Those tried in youth courts are treated differently to adults. Youth courts are more informal than adult courts and offenders will for example be called by their first names. The young person’s parent or guardian will also accompany them in the court. Members of the public are not usually allowed in to the court and there are restrictions on the media reporting of proceedings to prevent young people being identified.
Youth courts deal with cases such as drugs offences, theft and burglary and anti-social behaviour. Serious crimes, such as rape or murder, will start in the youth court but will be passed to a Crown Court.
Sentences for young people
The youth court has the power to sentence a young person to a Detention and Training Order, an extended sentence or a community sentence.
Detention and Training Order
A Detention and Training Order (DTO) can be given to someone aged between 12 and 17. They last between 4 months and 2 years. The first half of a Detention and Training Order is served in custody, the second half is served in the community under the supervision of the Youth Offending Team.
Extended sentences for young people
For more serious crimes, such as those of a sexual or violent nature, young people will be given an extended sentence of up to 14 years and will be supervised on their release. For the most serious crimes such as murder the young person will, like adults, receive a sentence with a minimum tariff. For murder crimes, the court sets the minimum amount of time to be spent in custody. The young person can’t apply for parole before this time. When released, the young person will be kept under supervision for the rest of their life.
Community sentences for young people
Young people given a community sentence will receive either a Youth Rehabilitation Order, a Referral Order or a Reparation Order.
Youth Rehabilitation Order
A Youth Rehabilitation Order (YRO) is an order imposed by a Court which is able to be given to young people under the age of 18 years old when they are being sentenced for having committed a criminal offence. The requirements which outline what a young person can or cannot do come under 18 main headings:
- Activity Requirement
- Curfew Requirement
- Exclusion Requirement
- Local Authority Residence Requirement
- Education Requirement
- Mental Health Treatment Requirement
- Unpaid Work Requirement (16/17 years)
- Drug Testing Requirement
- Intoxicating Substance Treatment Requirement
- Supervision Requirement
- Electronic Monitoring Requirement
- Prohibited Activity Requirement
- Drug Treatment Requirement
- Residence Requirement
- Programme Requirement
- Attendance Centre Requirement
- Intensive Supervision and Surveillance
- Intensive Fostering
YROs last for up to three years during which time all specified requirements must be completed.
Reparation Orders helps prevent children committing further offences by helping the child understand the effect of the crime on the victims. The order can relate to the victim, someone else affected by the offence or to the community as a whole. They can only be given to an offender under 18 years old and cannot be given if a child is being sentenced to a custodial sentence or a youth rehabilitation order. The reparation must be completed within 3 months.
Young offenders given Referral Orders must attend a youth offender panel, consisting of members of the local community and youth justice workers. The panel, young person and their parent (and sometimes the victim) then agree a programme of work to repair the damage done.
All young offenders given community sentences may also be required to meet with, and apologise to, the victim of the crime.