- Your rights under the UNCRC apply whatever happens to you if you get into trouble with the police
- In Wales, you should always be treated as a child first and an offender second
- The police and the courts hand the Youth Offending Teams must always think about what would be most appropriate for you in your case
If you end up in trouble with the police, you may end up in court, but this isn’t always what happens. There are different outcomes depending on what has happened, what you have done, how old you are and whether you have been in trouble with the police before.
It’s important to remember that even if you have done something wrong (or are accused of doing something wrong) you still have your rights under the UNCRC if you ware under 18.
If you are charged with an offence by the police, you will have to go to court. If you are 17 or under you will normally go to a youth court. If what you have been charged with is very serious (for example, murder) you may be tried in the Crown Court and not the youth court.
The court will hear evidence about what has happened and decide for themselves whether they think you did break the law or not. You can find out more about your rights at court, and what happens, here.
If the court decides that you did break the law, you will be ‘sentenced’. This is where the court decides what will happen to you. Your ‘sentence’ is what happens to you after court, if the court has decided that you did break the law.
The court has to think about you as a child and take into account your welfare. It has to act in your best interests and make sure that you will still receive education or training, and be protected from people or surroundings that could harm you.
Any child or young person can be given one of the following by a court:
- An Absolute Discharge
Even if the court decides that you have broken the law, it may decide that you won’t be punished
- A Conditional Discharge
The court decides you have broken the law but decides not to punish you straight away. The court will decide a period of time and as long as nothing happens in that time, you will not be punished.
- A Referral Order
You have to make a contract with a Youth Referral Panel to take part in a number of activities. These could include making it up to the victim of your crime and repairing any damage you caused, or paying money to that person. You might also have to take part in training or counselling to help you recognise what you did and to help you not get into trouble with the police again.
- A Financial Order
You – or, if you are under 16, your parents r carers, will have to pay a fine
- A Youth Rehabilitation Order
This is called a ‘community sentence’. You won’t go to Youth Detention Accommodation but you have to carry out work in the community. You may also have to attend training or counselling to help you recognise what you did and to help you not get into trouble with the police again.
A Youth Rehabilitation Order can also include things like a curfew, so you have to be in a particular place at particular times, electronic tagging, and you may be stopped form doing certain things.
If you have been in trouble with the police before, and you’re 12-14 you might get
A Youth Rehabilitation Order with intensive supervision and surveillance
This means you won’t have to stay in Youth Detention Accommodation, but you will have to wear an electronic tag, and let people know where you are. You will also have to attend for ‘contact time’
A Youth Rehabilitation Order with fostering
You will live with a foster carer if the court thinks your behaviour is being encouraged by the people you normally live with.
- A Detention and Training Order (DTO)
A DTO combines staying in Youth Detention Accommodation and working out in the community. You will also have to have training to try and help you stay out of trouble in future.
If you’re 10 or 11 you can’t be given a DTO. You can only be given a DTO if you’re 12-14 and you have been in in trouble with the police a lot before. You can be given a DTO is you’re 15-17 and it’s appropriate.
If you have done something very serious, you could be given a ‘sentence’ to keep you in Youth Detention Accommodation. This could be a Youth Offender Institution, a Secure Children’s Home or a Secure Training Centre. This is called detention. The Youth Custody Service will decide where the most appropriate place for you is.
An adult prison will never be an appropriate place for you to be as a child.
If you don’t agree with the decision of the Youth Custody Service about the type of accommodation that they have given you, you can ask for it to be reviewed.
If you are pregnant and sentenced to detention for long enough that you will still be in detention when you have your baby, the Youth Custody Service needs to make sure you go somewhere suitable for you.
In some cases, children and young people from Wales may end up in Youth Detention Accommodation in England because it will be closer to home than the accommodation that is available in Wales. There is no Secure Training Centre in Wales, the closest one is in Rugby, England. The closest Young Offenders Institution to North Wales is in Werrington in Staffordshire, also in England.
The Youth Custody Service has to take into account what will be in your best interests, and will need to think of things like whether you are a Welsh speaker, and whether you will be going back into the Welsh education system when your time in Youth Detention Accommodation is over.
Even as a child, if you are found guilty of a sexual offence, your name could be put on the Sex Offenders Register. Your name will stay on the Register for half the time that an adult would stay on.
It’s usually in your best interests not to end up in court. Although sometimes the situation means that this has to happen, there are lots of other situations when you may not end up in court.
If you have been arrested and you admit that you have broken the law, someone from the Youth Offending Team will get involved to think about alternatives. For example;
- Youth Caution
If you admit you have done wrong and the police have evidence to prove that the crime was committed, you might be given a Youth Caution. This is a warning by the police, and is often given to children/young people the first time they are in serious trouble with the police. You have to have an ‘appropriate adult’ with you when the police give you a Youth Caution. You will be referred to the Youth Offending Team and the Youth Caution will stay on your criminal record.
- Youth Conditional Caution
This is like a Youth Caution although there will be conditions attached. The ‘conditions’ will be things you have to do. A Youth Conditional Caution might be used if it’s the first time you’ve been in trouble with the police but what you have done is a bit more serious. It will go on your criminal record. You will be referred to the Youth Offending Team.
This is a system where you can be taken out of the formal police processes, like cautions or being charged and going to court. Triage can be used if it’s the first time you’ve been in trouble with the police, or if you’ve been in trouble with the police before for something that isn’t very serious. You will be involved in activities focussed on you making up to the victim of your crime and to the community. You won’t get a criminal record if you are involved in this kind of programme.