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What happens in a youth court? Task

A youth court is a type of magistrates’ court for young people between 10 and 17 years of age. A magistrate is a volunteer from the local area who is trained to deal with less serious criminal cases.

Cases in a youth court are considered by 3 magistrates or a district judge. A district judge is a lawyer. There is no jury in youth courts.

A parent or guardian must attend youth court with you if you are under 16 years old. If you are 16 or 17 years old, your parent or guardian must attend if they have been given a court order.

At the moment, the system in Scotland is a little different because a ‘Children’s Hearing’ is for young people between 8 and 16 years of age.

The Scottish Government is considering raising the age at which a young person can have a Children’s Hearing from 16 to 18 years of age. More information can be found on the Scottish Government’s website.

Youth courts are less formal than adult courts and young people are called by their first name.  

Members of the public are not allowed to attend youth courts unless they have permission. If the victim(s) would like to observe the court case, they need to request permission.  

There are rules which ban the press from releasing information that would identify the young person. These rules can be challenged after the case has been heard. 

The types of cases a youth court deals with include: 

  • Theft and burglary 
  • Anti-social behaviour 
  • Drugs offences 

For more serious crimes such as rape and murder, the case will start in a youth court but will be handed over to Crown Court. 

A sentence (in the legal world) is a punishment ordered by the court. The sentence will depend on each case and factors like the age of the person, how serious the crime is, and whether the person has a criminal record or not. There are sentencing guidelines to help the magistrates and judges decide on what sentences to give. 

A youth court can give two different types of sentences known as community sentences and Detention and Training Orders. 

Community sentences for young people are different to the community service sentences given to adults. There are three different kinds of community sentences for young people: 

  • Referral Orders – when a group of people from the local area and youth justice workers are asked to set out a programme of work to change the young person’s behaviour 
  • Reparation Orders – when the young person is given the chance to try and put things right after the harm caused to a victim or community  
  • Youth Rehabilitation Orders – when the court decides on things the young person must and/or must not do, which can last for 3 years 

The young person could also be asked to say sorry to the victim(s) by writing a letter or if the victim(s) agrees, meet face-to-face to say sorry and listen to the victim(s) story.    

Detention and Training Orders (DTO) require young people to serve the first half of the sentence in custody which could be in a young offender institution (YOI), secure training centre or secure children’s home. The second half of the sentence is served in the community. The duration of DTOs can be from 4 months, up to 2 years. 

For more serious crimes, young people could get an ‘extended sentence’ meaning they could spend more time in custody and will be under supervision (e.g. being tagged) for longer when released. 

For murder, there is a minimum amount of time the young person must spend in custody and they cannot apply for parole during this timeWhen released from custody, the young person will be under supervision for the rest of their life. 

Parole is when a young person is released from custody before the end of their sentence and is kept under supervision.