Young Offenders

Who can be considered as a young offender?

A young offender is generally described as a person of any gender convicted of a criminal offence or cautioned for such. Young persons age 17 or below who have been convicted of an offence can be considered as a young offender.  The criminal legal system in the United Kingdom has defined the age setting where a child could be called “criminally responsible”. In England and Wales, a child who has committed an offence at the age of 10 is considered criminally responsible. Scotland, on the other hand, records the lowest age for criminal responsibility at the age of 8.

What causes youth offence?

There are a lot of studies focusing on the possible causes of youth offence. Oftentimes, analyses point to the same reasons. In recent studies, such misbehaviour is usually caused by unhealthy family relationships, lack of education, personal insecurities, relation to relatives who have a record of offence and use of dangerous drugs and substances.

What are the pre-court proceedings for young offenders?

Local police authorities are generally the first ones who deal with young offenders. However, not all young offenders are subjected to court proceedings immediately. There are rules and regulations used to address offences made by young individuals. Some of them are as follows:

Reprimand

On a young individual’s first minor offence, the police officer responsible will give him or her formal verbal warning called a reprimand. In special cases, the police officer may recommend the individual to the Young Offending Team (YOT) for help to prevent the young individual from future misbehaviour. Composed of various representatives from the police force, social service institutions, health, education and other officers of similar institutions, the YOT would then assess the right voluntary programme that the youth offender needs.

Final Warning

Given to first or second offenders, the final warning is a formal verbal warning given by the police officer to the young offender. The young offender would also be subjected to an assessment of the causes of his or her behaviour. Depending on the assessment, a programme would be then recommended to address and prevent the child’s misbehaviour.

Acceptable Behaviour Contract

The local authority and YOT are tasked to provide an Acceptable Behaviour Contract to a young person who has recorded serious or several misbehaviour cases. The young individual and his or her parents would be the respondents of the contract. Any breach in the agreement would result to the issue of the Anti-Social Behaviour Order.

Anti-Social Behaviour Order

The Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO) is a memorandum directing the young individual to comply with the policies stated. This memorandum may cause the person to be prohibited from going to provided public places. The Anti-Social Behaviour Order may be given to anyone who is at least 10 years old and has recorded to cause alarm, distress or harassment. Once the order is not followed, the young individual may be subjected to prosecution.

Individual Support Orders

The Individual Support Orders may be served with the ASBO. The ISBO requires the young individual to participate in a minimum of twice a week sessions recommended and supervised by the YOT. Failure to follow the Individual Support Orders would be considered as a criminal offence.

Fine

Fines can be imposed on the young offender depending on the offence made and the offender’s financial situation. Parents of children under 16 years old would be responsible for the payment of such fines.

How is the justice system for young offenders?

Once the young offender conducts a serious misbehaviour, he or she will undergo the following:

  • The young person would be charged by the responsible police officer after committing a serious or series of offence

  • Depending o the decision of the court, the young individual may be bailed or remanded in custody. The court may decide to give the young offender either one of the following:

  1. Conditional bail: The court may require the young offender to report to a police station on regular periods while the court proceeding is ongoing. Conditional bail is designed to ensure that the young individual will appear in court during its hearings and to prohibit him or her from conducting any offence while on bail.

  2. Unconditional bail: The young individual will be required to appear in court on the specific dates. No other conditions are attached.

  3. Remand to a local authority accommodation: The court tasks a local authority to look after the young individual while court investigation is ongoing, The local authority can decide on the accommodation terms it will provide for the young individual.

  4. Secure remand: Given to a young individual who has a serious offence or has a record of multiple offences, secure remand places the individual in the custody of secure training centres or secure children’s homes.

  • The young individual appears in the Youth Court. On cases of serious misconduct, the Youth Court would refer the investigation to the Crown Court. The Crown Court deals with offences made by young individuals and adults. It facilitates the investigation on very serious criminal matters.

  • Once the young individual pleads guilty or is convicted, he or she would be sentenced by the court. Sentences could vary depending on the case. This could range from reparation orders where the individual would be made to understand the consequences of his or her actions; Youth Rehabilitation Order wherein the individual may be tasked to undergo particular rehabilitation programs such as intoxication from drugs to a Parent Order wherein the guardian or parent of the child would be heavily involved in his or her rehabilitation; and, Detention and Training Order (DTO) wherein the court sentences the young person to custody of a secure training centres, secure children’s homes or young offender institutions.