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What Happens If My Child Commits An Offence?

There are a number of sentencing options for young offenders (ten- to 17-year-olds), depending on the seriousness of the offence and the number of previous convictions. Below is a general guide, although it's important to remember there are no hard-and-fast rules. Judgments are made on the basis of each individual case, so a serious first offence may go directly to court and could even result in a jail sentence.


Minor first offences are usually dealt with by a reprimand. This stays on record with the police for five years or until the child is 18, whichever is longer.

If the young person reoffends, they'll probably receive a final warning. This also stays on police records, but isn't a criminal record. The local Youth Offending Team (YOT) is likely to become involved at this stage and will carry out an assessment of the young person. Parental involvement is also expected.

Going to court

There are a range of options open to youth courts when dealing with offenders. These are broadly equivalent to those that apply in adult magistrates' courts, with two major differences.

Firstly, while a conviction in youth court results in a criminal record, the law recognises that young offenders are a special case and the slate is wiped clean once the person reaches 18 years of age.

Secondly, parents are also considered to be part of the process. When a young person is convicted, the YOT carries out a pre-sentence report and may ask the parent(s) to consider joining a parenting group for support and advice. If the parent(s) aren't willing to do this, the YOT may recommend the court issues a parenting order, making attendance compulsory. Failure to comply with this can result in a fine or even a prison sentence.

Sentencing options in youth court

Compensation order - when compensation is paid to the victim. This must be considered by the court before the more severe sanction of a fine. If the young person is under 15, the parents are usually responsible for the compensation or fine.

Referral order - given to those pleading guilty in court for a first offence. The offender is required to meet with a youth offender panel consisting of a YOT worker and two trained members of the community. Victims of the offence may also attend. The panel will look at the reasons and consequences of the offence and agree a contract of reparation and activity to prevent further offending. Referral orders can last from three to 12 months, depending on the seriousness of the offence. Once it has finished, the offence is spent.

Community sentences - these are for more serious or persistent offenders and include supervision orders, which can last up to three years, and curfew orders, which require the young person to wear an electronic tag. Custodial sentence - if the courts decide that a custodial sentence is the only option, they can sentence the young person to a detention and training order. This is served half in custody and half in the community and can last from four months to two years.

Taken from the BBC Parenting Information - for more information check out 2004

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