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When will a young person be given a custodial sentence? Task

People under 18 get different sentences from adults depending on the crime committed. These include discharges, fines, referral orders, youth rehabilitation orders and custodial sentences. 

Custodial sentences will only be issued to children and young people in the most serious cases. When given, they aim to provide training and education and to rehabilitate the offender so they do not re-offend. Custodial sentences given to young people include Detention and Training Orders, longer-term detention and life sentences.  

A Detention and Training Order can be given to someone aged between 12 and 17. They last between four months and two years. The first half of a Detention and Training Order is served in custody. The second half is served in the community.

A sentence of detention for life or an extended sentence of detention may be imposed if a child or young person is convicted of a specified offence and the court believes that there is a significant risk of serious harm to members of the public from them committing further offences.  

For severe crimes, young people can get an ‘extended sentence’. They could spend a long time in custody, and when released they’ll be put under supervision for a long time (for example by being tagged).  

For murder, the court sets the minimum amount of time to be spent in custody. The young person can’t apply for parole before this time has elapsed. When released, the young person will be kept under supervision for the rest of their life.  

Sometimes the sentence for a young person can last as long as the sentence for an adult for the same offence (but not longer). This includes life sentences. A life sentence lasts for the rest of a person’s life. If they’re released from prison and commit another crime they can be sent back to prison at any time. 

Sentences can be spent in secure children’s homes, secure training centres and young offender institutions.  

A discharge means that the child or young person is released from court without any further action. These are the same as for adult offenders. They are given for the least serious offences, but the person will still get a criminal record. A discharge may be: 

  • An absolute discharge: the court decides not to carry out punishment because the experience of going to court has been punishment enough. 
  • A conditional discharge: if the child or young person commits another crime, they can be sentenced for the first offence as well as the new one.  

A fine may be issued for certain crimes. As for adults, fines should reflect the offence committed and the child or young person’s ability to pay. Where the child or young person is under 16, the parent/guardian is required to pay the fineIn this case, the ability of the parent/guardian to pay is taken into account when setting the level of the fine. 

A referral order requires the child or young person to attend a youth offender panel (made up of two members of the local community and an advisor from a youth offending team) and agree on a contract containing certain commitments. This will last between three months and a year.  

The aim of the referral order is for the child or young person to make up for the harm they have caused and do something about their offending behaviour. A referral order must be imposed for a first offence where the child or young person has pleaded guilty unless the court decides that another sentence is justified. A referral order may also be imposed in other circumstances.  

Youth Rehabilitation Order is a community sentence. It can include one or more requirements that the offender must comply with and can last for up to three years. Some examples of the requirements that can be imposed include: 

  • A curfew 
  • Supervision 
  • Unpaid work 
  • Electronic monitoring 
  • Drug treatment 
  • Mental health treatment 
  • Education requirements 

Parole means you can leave prison or be released from custody before the end of your sentence, but you’ll be kept under supervision. You might be able to get parole as a young offender if youre a young adult (aged 18 to 21) or a juvenile (aged under 18).  

You may have to apply for parole yourself or the government may apply for you depending on what kind of sentence you’re serving. You’ll need a solicitor to help you get parole. Ask a member of the prison staff for help getting a solicitor if you don’t already have one. You might be able to get legal aid to help pay for a solicitor