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The principle for sentencing in youth cases is that the court will generally give a sentence appropriate for the youth’s age at the time when the offence took place, rather than the offender’s age at the time of sentencing. If the youth in question is a habitual offender this may not apply.
Youth courts have the power when sentencing to give the orders and penalties listed below, depending on several factors including the offender’s age at the time of the offence. The several categories are:
First tier penalties are the most lenient and are appropriate for first-time offenders or relatively minor offences. They include the following sentence options:
The referral order is a unique community-based sentencing option which holds a young offender to account for their actions and is arranged through the volunteer youth offender panel. The referral order is used when a young person is charged with a criminal offence for the first time and pleads guilty - in practice this is usually the most common sentencing option used for first time offenders.
If under the age of 16 the offender is required to attend a youth offender panel with their parents / guardians (or local authority representative if under the care of the local authority) and, utilising a restorative justice approach, may be required to make restitution or reparation to their victim. The youth agrees to the terms of a contract developed by the panel which can include repairing damage or making financial recompense, as well as participation in a programme of intervention and other activities to address their offending behaviour.
Should the offender refuse to agree a contract, or break their obligations under it, the panel can send the offender back to the courts for re-sentencing.
Community penalties are more serious and though they don’t usually restrict freedom like being in custody they do mean that the young offender must complete certain requirements (such as attendance on courses, obeying a curfew or doing community work). The main community penalty is the youth rehabilitation order which has requirements that must be complied with for up to three years. Those requirements can include:
A custodial sentence is a sentence that restricts the freedom of the youth by sending them to one of the following:
The main type of custodial sentence is a detention and training order (DTO). A DTO sends a youth offender into custody for between four months and two years with the sentence split into two halves. The first half in spent in custody and second is spent in the community under the supervision of the youth offending team (YOT).
Ancillary orders are extra orders that can be added to a sentence at the court’s discretion. They include the following options:
- a court can 'bind-over' parents / guardians to ensure they keep their child (under 16) under control and that they comply with their community sentence; a fine of up to £1000 will be added if they fail to control their child; the order can last up to three years
- parenting orders require parents to attend courses and guidance with their child over a 12 month period; they may have to ensure their child is at home in the evenings or does not go to certain places; the parent or guardian cannot refuse a parenting order
If you think you, or a friend or family member, may have a child who is likely to be sentenced in the youth court system, remember AFG LAW can assist you. Please ring 01204 377600 to speak to one of our expert youth courts law solicitors who can advise you and attend court.
Tracy Haslam qualified as a Chartered Legal Executive in June 2007 and was admitted as a Fellow of the Institute of Legal Executives in February 2008. She became an Advocate in 2014 and specialises in the preparation of crown court matters.read more