In the eyes of the law if you are under 18 years old you will be dealt with as a child. As a child the criminal justice system will treat you differently to adults.
West Mercia Youth Justice Service (WMYJS) is there to reduce offending by children and young people and will work with you and those who care for you, to achieve this. If you want any advice about our service or the criminal justice system, please get in touch using the contact details on this website.
If a child or young person has been arrested they will normally be taken to the nearest police station. If you are under 17 years old you have the right to have an ‘appropriate adult’ with you 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 a trained person to attend, the police will arrange this. If you are under 18 the police must try to contact your parents or carers.
The police will interview you and this should always be done with your solicitor and an appropriate adult present. Your solicitor will speak with you before the interview and explain what is happening and will help you in the interview. If you don’t have a solicitor the police will arrange for a duty solicitor to be appointed.
See this YouTube video which may help you understand what happens if you are arrested and taken into 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 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 may 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 (you cannot go to this meeting). 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
If you a young person has to go to court for some this will be a stressful and difficult time, WMYJS is there to support you through the process. We will explain the process and what is likely to happen both before and after you have been in court, if you need any clarification please ask our staff.
If a young person cannot be dealt with by an Out Of Court Disposal they may be ‘charged to court’ essentially they will be given a date to appear at court. Youth Court is a specialist court for children and young people. Youth Courts are less formal than adult courts. Young people are called by their first names and the judge or magistrates will speak directly to the young person and may ask questions. Youth Courts are specially designed to make it easier for young people 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.
If you are under 16 years old you must attend with a parent or carer. If you are 16 or 17 years old you 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 young people 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 young person 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 young person if they are guilty or not guilty, if the young person 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.
See this link to a YouTube video that may be helpful for you 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
- Custody (prison)
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.
This is given for an amount of time ie 1 year during that time no further action will be taken but if you commit another crime, you 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 you and your parents or carers, and gather information from any professionals involved to carry out an assessment to present to the ‘Referral Order Panel’ so that a ‘contract’ or plan can be agreed with the you and your parent about how to proceed on their order. This contract will be about how the harm caused by the offence can be mended and how you 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 you should be sentenced to. Make sure you talk with your WMYJS worker about this report and what recommendation will be made to the court.
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.
Only a very small number of young people receive a custodial sentence in West Mercia area, these are only for very serious offences. In 2020 there were only 5 young people sentenced to custody across West Mercia.
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 you, the secure accommodation provider and your parents. You will have frequent meetings and reviews with Parents, the WMYJS worker and other professionals which you should attend. Your parents will be able to visit at other times by arrangement with the secure provision. If agreed you can have telephone contact whilst in custody 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.
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 you to initially think about why the offence was committed, what triggered it or caused it including all the aspects of your life and current circumstances. Once we know this together with you and others supporting you eg your parents, we can work out a plan about how we can stop this happening again. It may be as simple as you having been in school and having nothing to do during the day, and end up hanging around with older children or adults and getting into trouble. We can help look at why you are not in school, find a new placement or renegotiate getting back into school, looking for other activities and friendship groups that are more positive.
We will help with:
- Understanding the harm – helping you repair the harm (Restorative Justice)
- Reparation – paying back for the harm caused
- Education, Employment and Training – helping you get back into education or work
- Drugs and alcohol work – helping you understand your drug use and how it affects offending
- Offending behaviour work – what leads to young people committing offences
- Communication support – making sure that you are heard
- Support from CAMHS (mental health)– help with managing emotions and trauma
- Creative Arts to Communication – helping you improve communication through different mediums
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.