If you are under the age of 18 and you are charged with a criminal offence then (unless you are charged with an adult co-defendant) your case will start and probably finish in the youth court. Only the most serious offences will be sent to the crown court for trial.
The procedure in the youth court is less formal than in the magistrates’ court or crown court and members of the public are not allowed into court to watch the proceedings. Youths are required to attend with a parent or carer and a representative from the local Youth Offending Team will also be present in court.
Before the hearing we will obtain a copy of the prosecution papers and go through them with you. We will take your full instructions and advise you on the law, the strength of the evidence against you, any defences available to you and what sentence you could expect to receive if you were to be convicted.
If you enter a not guilty plea in court your case will be adjourned for a trial to take place at a future date which is when you and any defence witnesses will attend to give evidence along with the prosecution witnesses. You may be given bail conditions by the court that will remain in place until the next hearing. Common bail conditions include a condition not to contact prosecution witnesses or co-defendants and the court will sometimes impose a condition of residence and a curfew.
If you plead guilty to the offence charged then you may be sentenced there and then but more usually, your case would be adjourned for 3 weeks during which time someone from the local Youth Offending Team would meet with you and then prepare a pre-sentence report which the court will read before sentencing you.
The focus in the youth court is on rehabilitation and the prevention of further offending so the court will want to know the reasons behind the offending. Many young people have problems with drugs or problems at home or at school which are linked to their offending.
The sentence you receive will be based on the seriousness of the offence but will also take into account your age, whether you have been in trouble before, whether you are sorry for what you did and your personal circumstances.
At Wheldon Law we have a wealth of experience in representing young people. Most of us are parents and we understand that it can be a stressful time for the young person and their families. We work hard to build a relationship of trust and understanding with our clients as we believe that, the better we know our client, the better the job we can do for them. We also always try to involve the family as much as possible, although this can only happen with the client’s consent.
If you or a family member are facing criminal proceedings, even if the case is still at the police station stage, feel free to call us on 01442 242999 for free preliminary advice. Alternatively you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org