Court hearings concerning children take place in a number of different courts.
Where a child or young person is accused of a crime, the hearing will take place in the Youth Court, which is a part of the Magistrates' Court. In serious cases, the hearing may take place in the Crown Court. Such hearings are as informal as possible but do not take place in private, although reporting restrictions do apply.
Hearings about the welfare of children take place in three levels of court, depending on the complexity of the case:
- The least complex cases are heard by unpaid lay magistrates in the Family Proceedings Court, which is another part of the Magistrates' Court. In North Yorkshire, there are Family Proceedings Court in Northallerton, Scarborough, Harrogate, Skipton, York and Selby (Selby is due to close in 2013 and the work will be transferred to York);
- More complex cases are heard by professional judges in the County Court. North Yorkshire is served by County Courts in Middlesbrough, Scarborough, Harrogate, Skipton, York and Leeds. Some family cases, such as care proceedings or adoptions, can only be dealt with in the larger County Courts (Middlesbrough, York, Leeds);
- The most complex cases are heard in the Family Division of the High Court.
Family cases are heard in private and the public are not allowed to observe. Accredited journalists are generally allowed to watch the proceedings but there are very tight restrictions on what they can report.
There is more information about the family courts, with separate sections for adults, teenagers and children, on the children and family courts advisory and support service website. There is also a guide to the family justice system on the Family Justice Council website.