Youth Crime & The Law

Youth Crime & The Law

Our youth crime lawyers have a successful track record of defending young people (i.e. those under the age of 18). We have dealt with offences including but not limited to violence, drugs, firearms, sexual allegations, Public Order Act, murder, gang-related crime.

Youth Courts are situated in most Magistrates’ Court buildings. The Youth Court is a separate part of the court that only deals with defendants under the age of 18. Those under the age of 18 are in general called ‘Youths’ by the Court, although sometimes they may use the terms ‘children’ (those under 14) and ‘young person’ (for those aged 14 to 17 years inclusive).

The young age of the defendant means that the court will look at the issues of criminal responsibility, bail, sentencing and mitigation differently to an adult court. For the Youth and their family, it is often the first time they have come across the Criminal Justice System (for Youths it is called the Youth Justice System) and it can be both daunting and confusing. The aim of everyone working in the Youth Justice System is to prevent offending by Youths.

As opposed to adult courts, the court is closed to the general public and usually, it has only:

  • The youth;
  • Their parent or guardian;
  • Their solicitor;
  • The prosecutor;
  • Members or officers of the court (including the Judge or the Magistrates);
  • The youth offending team (YOT) officer.

The layout of the Youth Court is such as to not be intimidating for the youth. The hope is that the youth can engage with the court process fully. All the parties, especially the youth crime solicitor will make the court aware of any communication difficulties or any difficulties in understanding the youth may have.

Reporting restrictions automatically apply to most proceedings in the Youth Court, therefore it is unlikely that there will be any members of the press in the Youth Court.

Almost all types of cases are heard at the Youth Court. The main exceptions being:

  • If a youth is charged with murder it will not be dealt with at the Youth Court, instead, it will be sent to the Crown Court after an initial administrative hearing at the Youth Court;
  • Where the youth has been jointly charged with an adult they may have to appear at the Magistrates’ Court;
  • Other circumstances where the Youth Court may consider sending the case to the Crown Court, especially where a ‘grave crime’ has been committed or the child/young person is considered to be a ‘dangerous young offender’.

Whenever a youth is facing a case at the Youth Court it is very important that they are represented. Youths may often have difficulties in appreciating the potential consequences of having a conviction against their name. A conviction will damage their reputation and is likely to adversely affect their future. In addition, they may not fully understand the nature of the charge against them and will benefit from the explanation and advice given by an experienced criminal defence solicitor.

Initially, youths may often be embarrassed to discuss the matter or become passive through nervousness. It is therefore wise to meet with a solicitor before the first hearing in court to discuss the case and address any questions that they may have. It is also helpful for the parent or guardian as they may have relevant information and reports as to the behaviour of the youth that will be of great assistance in the preparation of the defence of their case.

Funding a youth crime case

Our youth crime lawyers will make an application for legal aid (public funding) on behalf of the Youth. A representation order will be granted provided that it is in the interests of justice. The financial means of the youth are not an issue in determining the application. Most applications are granted as it is almost always in the interests of justice that a Youth should have proper legal representation at the Youth Court. Youths cannot be expected to represent themselves and nor should that burden fall on the youth’s parent or guardian.

Youth Crime Defence Solicitors

Being prosecuted for a criminal offence in the youth court can be a daunting experience. The most important thing is to have solicitors who not only understand the sensitivities involved but are also experienced youth crime solicitors. For more information read our FAQ’s regarding representation at the Youth Court.  If you would like some advice on this or any other criminal matter please call on +44 (0)203 601 5051.

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Shaoli has been a solicitor at NLS for over two years, transitioning from a background in criminal law to full-time family law. Her experience as a Criminal Duty Solicitor has equipped her with unique skills that are invaluable in her current role.
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