West Mercia Youth Justice Service is there to help children and young people stop committing offences, if you need any advice or guidance re your role and responsibility for those you are working with please contact us directly through the contact details on this website.
‘Child’ or ‘Young person’? In the eyes of the law all people under the age of 18 years are dealt with as ‘children’ and the laws pertaining to them are different from adults. This is important to remember when supporting them particularly when trying to understand any offences committed as culpability, responsibility and understanding are not solely based on age and this will affect how we can support them.
If a child or young person has been arrested they will normally be taken to the nearest police station. If they are under 17 years old they the right to have an appropriate adult with them at the police station. An appropriate adult must be over 18 years of age and could be a parent, carer, relative or social worker, youth worker etc. If no one is available WMYJS has an Appropriate Adult service that will provide someone to attend, the police will arrange this. If they are under 18 the police must try to contact your parents or carers.
The police will interview the child or young person and this should always be done with a solicitor for the young person present who has an opportunity to speak with the young person first. If the Young person does not have a solicitor the police will arrange for a duty solicitor to be appointed.
See this YouTube video which may help you or the young person understand what happens if they are arrested and taken inti police custody.
The police will attempt to gather all information regarding the alleged offence to make decision on how to proceed. Their decision will be made on the basis of the quality of the evidence, the seriousness of the offence, is prosecution in the public interest and the likelihood of getting a conviction. For less serious crimes a young person could be released from Police custody while further evidence is gathered and these decisions are made, or sometimes for more serious crimes they may be held until they can be taken to court.
The following options are how a child may be dealt with if the Police proceed with action.
For some minor offences children and young people may have their case dealt with without having to go to court. If they admit the offence Police may give a first Community Resolution (CR) for minor offences. This means the police will deal with the matter without resorting to formal prosecution and may involve a simple apology or compensation if they have damaged something.
If this is not possible the young person’s case will be referred to a Joint Decision Making Panel (JDMP) meeting. At the meeting there will be West Mercia Police, the West Mercia Youth Justice Service (WMYJS), Children’s Services, representatives from the local community and other relevant agencies. Prior to the JDMP a worker from WMYJS will meet the young person, their parents or carers, gather information from any professionals involved to carry out an assessment of the young person to present to the JDMP so a decision can be made about how to proceed.
Possible disposal decisions that could be made at a JDMP
- No Further Action (NFA)
- Community Resolution –
- Outcome 21
- Outcome 22
- Youth Caution
- Youth Conditional Caution
- Referred back to the Police for consideration prosecution
Take a look at our leaflet for more information on these outcomes.
If the child or young person cannot be dealt with by the means above they may be ‘charged to court’ essentially they will be given a date to appear court. Youth Court is a specialist court for children. Youth Courts are less formal than adult courts. Children are called by their first names and the judge or magistrates will speak directly to the child and may ask questions. Youth Courts are specially designed to make it easier for children to understand what is happening and feel less intimidated by their surroundings. Cases can be heard by one district judge (DJ) or three lay magistrates.
Children under 16 must attend with a parent or carer. Sixteen and seventeen year olds may attend with a parent, carer or someone to support them. The parent, carer or supporting adult should sit next to their child and remain seated throughout the proceedings.
Most children will go to the Youth Court unless they have been refused bail by the police and there is no youth court available, in which case they will be taken to the adult magistrates’ court for a decision on bail, and sent from there to the next Youth Court.
A child jointly charged with an adult will go to the adult magistrates’ court for their first appearance.
At the first appearance the court will usually ask the child if they are guilty or not guilty, if the child is charged with a grave crime the court will decide which court will hear the case. More serious cases may be sent to the Crown Court. The majority of cases will stay in the Youth Court.
The YouTube video below may be helpful for you to help the young person you are working with to understand what youth court looks like and what happens there.
Children and young people will be normally be sentenced in a Youth Court. Where an offence indicates a more serious sentence, the case could be heard in Crown Court (where longer sentences can be given).
- Absolute Discharge
- Conditional Discharge
- Referral Order for up to 1 year
- Youth Rehabilitation Order for up to 3 years
- Detention and Training Order (DTO) – prison for up to 2 years
- Section 91 – prison for more than 2 years
These are given for the least serious offences and mean that the child or young person is released from court without any further action. They will, however, still get a criminal record.
The court decides not to impose a punishment because the experience of going to court has been punishment enough.
If the child or young person commits another crime, they can be sentenced for the first offence as well as the new one.
The fine should reflect the offence committed and the child or young person’s ability to pay. Where the child or young person is under 16 the parent or carer is required to pay the fine and so it will be their ability to pay that is taken into account when setting the level of the fine.
The Referral Order is normally the first order a young person can have at court. After you have been sentenced to this order a worker from WMYJS will meet the young person, their parents or carers, and gather information from any professionals involved to carry out an assessment of the young person to present to the ‘Referral Order Panel’ so that a ‘contract’ can be agreed with the young person about how to proceed on their order. This contract will be about how the harm caused by the offence can be mended and how the young person can be supported to not commit further offences.
A parent, carer or responsible adult (including a professional involved) can be required by the Court to attend the Panel meetings.
The following Orders will only be given in court after an assessment has been carried out similar to that for an Out of Court Disposal and a Referral Order. This assessment will be presented as a report to the Court to help them in sentencing and is called a Pre-Sentence Report (PSR). The young person, their parents and any professionals involved will be involved in this report as it will make recommendations to the court about what order the young person should be sentenced to. If you are a professional make sure you liaise with the WMYJS about this report.
A Youth Rehabilitation Order will contain one or more ‘Requirements’, which will usually include working with the WMYJS (a Supervision Requirement) and also other activities, such as unpaid work, a curfew or ordered to live in a certain place. Typically this will start with appointments with a worker from the WMYJS at least weekly, sometimes more (depending on risk). It can included electronic monitoring equipment being installed at the young person’s home for up to 3 months. It can also include intensive intervention programmes for up to 25 hours a week over a 3 month period.
A Detention and Training Order (DTO) is a prison sentence and will be for serious crimes or for those young people that cannot comply with their community order. Young people sentenced to a a DTO will go to secure accommodation based on their age and risk factors, either:- a Secure Children’s Home (SCH), a Secure Training Centre (STC). Youth Offenders Institute (YOI). For longer sentences they may move from one to another as they get older or their risk changes. The first half of the sentence is usually be served in custody and the second half will be supervised by the Youth Offending Service in the community.
A Section 91 is for very serious offences, this is a sentence used only in Crown Court and will be for more than 2 years. If a young person is sentenced using this they will go to the same secure settings as for a DTO.
Criminal Records – Convictions, and ‘Spent’ convictions explained.
What is a Criminal Record?
Criminal records show details of all; arrests, out of court disposal (including youth cautions) and court convictions these are held on the police national computer (PNC) for any child or adult. This information is only deleted when a person reaches 100 years old.
What is a Conviction and a Youth Caution and when are they ‘spent’?
A conviction means you have been sentenced in a court.
A Youth Caution (there are several types) is given when someone admits an offence but was not dealt with in court, these are also called ‘out of court disposals’ or ‘diversionary disposals’ they are usually for minor offences.
Under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 people who have a convictions or cautions are considered to have been ‘rehabilitated’ after a certain period of time, the length of time is based on the type of sentence or caution you were given (not the offence type) and if you were a youth or adult at the time of sentencing. Click here Is it spent? to see how long before a conviction is spent.
Do I have to tell people about my criminal record?
Yes and No.
Usually when people refer to someone having a criminal record it means they have an unspent convictions or caution. When people apply for most jobs they only have to tell their employer about unspent convictions or cautions.
However there are certain jobs, for example working with children and vulnerable adults that employers are entitled to ask for a standard or enhanced criminal record check and to know about all convictions, cautions and relevant allegations. In some circumstances cautions and a first conviction can be filtered out. Recent changes in the law in November 2020 will mean that no youth cautions, youth conditional cautions, reprimands or warnings will be automatically disclosed on standard or enhanced criminal record checks (DBS).
If you are not sure speak to your worker at WMYJS or see these websites for more information
The WMYJS will work with the child and their family and anyone else supporting them to initially think about why the offence was committed, what triggered it or caused it including all the aspects the child’s life and current circumstances. We will want to work in partnership with any other agencies and organisation who are already working with the child or their family to ensure that we have a coordinated multi-agency plan.
We will help with:
- Understanding the harm – helping young people repair the harm (Restorative Justice)
- Reparation – paying back for the harm the young person has caused
- Education, Employment and Training – helping people get back into education or work
- Drugs and alcohol work – helping understand drug use and how it affects offending
- Offending behaviour work – what leads to young people committing offences
- Communication support – lots of young people have unrecognised communication issues
- Support from CAMHS (mental health)– help with managing emotions and trauma
- Creative Arts to Communication – helping young people improve communication through different mediums
Kitchen Table Talks (KTT)
KTT is a new support service for parents and carers is run by First Class Foundation who are a midlands based charity whose aim is to reduce youth violence, improve mental health resilience and help connect young people and their families. The KTT does that by supporting parents of children and young people who have committed crimes and are being supervised by Youth Offending Teams across the west midlands in including West Mercia Youth Justice Service.
KTT are monthly meetings (either in person or online) where parents can come together to share their experiences of having a child who has committed crimes, get support from KTT staff, other parents and access ideas and information about the criminal justice system, as well as improving communication with their child and the youth justice service. Parents can be referred to KTT via their WMYJS worker, engagement is completely voluntary and is not time limited.
See this link to the KTT website
We help young people make up for what they have done and then help put their life back on track so they do not offend again.
It should be said that a very small number of young people receive a custodial sentence in West Mercia area, and these are only for very serious offences. In 2020 there were only 5 young people sentenced to custody.
If a child or young person is sentenced to custody they will go to either:- a Secure Children’s Home (SCH), a Secure Training Centre (STC). Youth Offenders Institute (YOI). For longer sentences they may move from one to another as they get older or their risk changes. The first half of the sentence is usually be served in custody and the second half will be supervised by the Youth Offending Service in the community.
WMYJS remain responsible for the child or young person’s case wherever they are placed and will be in frequent contact with the secure accommodation provider and the young person. Young people will have frequent meetings and reviews which Parents or carers, WMYJS worker and other professionals should attend, as well as other visits times. If agreed you people can have telephone contact with family and professionals. Maintaining contact is a high priority for young people in custody as it is a key element for resettlement when they are released.
Contact WMYJS if you want to know more about a child or young person who is in or at risk of a custodial sentence.