The Youth Court is where nearly all cases involving a defendant under 18 will be heard. The Youth Court is usually based in the same building as the Magistrates Court, but will use designated rooms to avoid young defendants from waiting in the same area as adult defendants.
The makeup of the Youth Court is also similar to the Magistrates Court, with cases being presented in front of either a bench of Magistrates or a single District judge.
The only reasons a youth case will go to the Crown Court is if the defendant is co-accused with an adult, or if the defendant is charged with a “grave crime.” A “grave crime” is an offence which carries a possible maximum sentence of 14 years or more, and the Court rules that the maximum sentence in the Youth Court would not be sufficient.
One of the biggest differences about the Youth Court is the change in sentencing powers compared to the Magistrates Court:
- Unless the offence is a “grave crime”, the maximum sentence is 2 years Detention and Training Order (DTO).
- A Detention and Training Order is made up of half youth custody (detention in a Young Offender’s Institution), and half youth rehabilitation.
- If the Court does not think the case is serious enough to justify a DTO, the Community Penalties are different to those for adults. They are designed specifically for youths, and to address the types of factors involved in youth offending.
- If a youth has no previous convictions, pleads guilty to the charge, and the offence is not so serious to justify a DTO, the Court only has the power to impose a Referral Order. These are Orders managed by a Youth Offending Panel, to work with the defendant to prevent reoffending. The biggest advantage to the defendant of a Referral Order is that once the Order is complete, it becomes “spent”. This means that for most jobs, the defendant won’t have to disclose details of the conviction on the application form.
Youth sentencing is highly complex, with certain sentencing options only being available for defendants over certain ages. Sometimes even the Courts make mistakes about their sentencing powers, which is why it’s so important to instruct a specialist criminal defence firm like Stephen Lickrish & Associates who have experienced solicitors to deal with such cases.
If you, or someone you know, has to appear before the Youth Court, contact us to see how we can help you.