Youth courts specialise in dealing with criminal charges against young people.
In a youth court there will be magistrates, a legal advisor who helps the magistrates, the young person's solicitor and a prosecutor solicitor who will tell both sides of the story. There will also be a youth justice service court officer who can give help and advice to parents and young people. Reporters from the press may be in court but will not be allowed to identify any of the people involved.
What are the courtrooms like?
Youth courts try to use smaller rooms, but otherwise they look like the courts seen on television. The magistrates sit at a raised table, and all the people involved in the case sit in front of them. If the young person would like to see the courtroom before the case, this can be arranged by contacting the court office.
- arrive on time;
- dress smartly;
- arrange a solicitor;
- think about what you want to say; and,
- say it politely and calmly.
You should not:
- act as if you don’t care;
- get angry or upset;
- interrupt or argue in court; or,
- come without a parent or carer.
You must attend with your child, and will usually have to pay their fines or compensation. Sometimes it will seem as if everyone is blaming you, but the court is genuinely sympathetic to any parent who is doing his or her best.
Raising Your Game is a project for young people aged between 14 and 25 with a learning disability or communication difficulty. Some have been in trouble with the police and some are at risk of getting into trouble. This video gives tips on what a young person should do if they need to go to court.
Mark Goldring, chief executive at Mencap says, "Going to court can be worrying, the Raising Your Game film is a great resource to help people with a learning disability understand what will happen."
Young people are entitled to free legal representation. We strongly recommend this is arranged, even if pleading guilty. Many solicitors can give free or reduced-rate help under legal aid. More details can be found online, or ask to speak to the duty solicitor at court.
The youth justice service worker will always interview the young person, and talk to their parents or carers. It is very important that the young person is honest and sensible about this, their attitude to the offences is an important factor in sentencing.
The report writer will also see the evidence against the young person, including copies of the police interview, and details of previous offences (if any). They will also talk to other professionals who know the young person, such as social workers, youth leaders or teachers.
Parents are expected to take care that their children don’t get into trouble. When young people do offend, courts must decide how much of the responsibility belongs with the parents. Parents often have to pay fines and compensation, and sometimes could be placed under a parenting order if they won’t accept voluntary help.
This happens when the court decides that extra rules or supervision are needed to keep the young person out of trouble during their court proceedings. They might order the young person to report to a police station regularly, or to stay indoors after a certain time. Sometimes the court will order the young person to wear an electronic tag to monitor them, or put restrictions on where they can live or where they can go.
If a court thinks that a young person is a danger to the community, or that they’re going to commit more crimes during the case, they can order the young person to be placed in youth detention accommodation. This might be a young offender institution, a secure training centre or a secure children’s home. Those young people also become “looked after” and will have a social worker to support them.