Going to Court
If you are summoned to attend court, it is advisable to get there early so that you can find out where you need to go. Upon arriving at court, you must report to the court usher and your solicitor (or duty solicitor) the BYJS court officer will also be present to offer support.
Very often, magistrates ask for a pre-sentence report to be written to help them come to a decision about the best way to deal with an offence. When this happens, your case will be adjourned for a period of time to allow a BYJS case manager to visit you and prepare the report.
Depending on the outcome of a court appearance the magistrate may decide on one of the following courses of action:-
- absolute discharge
- conditional discharge
- referral order
- reparation order
- youth rehabilitation order
- detention and training order
- Section 90/91 *
* Section 90/91 sentences are given in Crown Court. If a young person is charged with a serious offence the case may be passed from the magistrate’s court to the crown court.
A young person is given an absolute discharge when they admit guilt or are found guilty but no further action is taken against them.
A young person receiving a conditional discharge receives no immediate punishment. A period of up to three years is set and, as long as a young person does not commit a further offence during this period no punishment will be imposed. However, if the young person commits another offence during this period, they can be brought back to court. They will then be sentenced for the original offence that they had the conditional discharge for and any new offence.
The size of a fine reflects the gravity of the offence committed and the offender’s financial circumstances.
For a young person under 16 years of age, the payment of a fine is the responsibility of their parent/carers. Financial circumstances will be taken into account when the level of a fine is set.
A referral order is usually given to a young person who pleads guilty to an offence when it is his/her first time in court.
The only exceptions to this are:
- when the offence is serious that a custodial sentence is necessary
- when the offence is relatively minor and a fine or absolute discharge may be given.
- in exceptional circumstances a second referral order may be given by a court if a significant period of time has lapsed since the last referral order ended.
When a young person is given a referral order, s/he is required to attend a youth offender panel. The panel is made up of two volunteers from the local community and panel adviser from the YJS. The panel, in consultation with the young person, their parents/carers and the victim (where appropriate) agree a contract aimed at repairing the harm that has been caused and address the causes of the offending behaviours.
A referral order may last for between 3 to 12 months. The conviction is ‘spent’ once the contract has been successfully completed. This means that in most circumstances, the offence will not have to be disclosed by the young person when applying for work. However, the offence will still appear on the young person’s criminal record and enhanced CRB check.
Reparation orders are designed to help young offenders consider the consequences of their offending and take responsibility for their behaviour. They require the young person to repair the harm caused by the offence either directly to the victim or indirectly to the community. A reparation order lasts for three months and can include up to 24 hours of reparation.
The youth rehabilitation order (YRO) is a community based order that can last up to three years. A youth rehabilitation order will contain one or more requirements such as completing reparation or unpaid work, complying with a curfew or activity or living as directed by the courts.
The number of elements given to be requirements of the youth rehabilitation order are based on the needs and risk indicators of each young person. This will also determine the frequency of contact with the YJS.
An Intensive Supervision and Surveillance (ISS) element may also be attached to a youth rehabilitation order. ISS is an intensive community order that lasts for six months. During the first three months of ISS, a young person is required to have daily contact with the YOS for a minimum of 25 hours per week. During the final 3 months contact is relaxed.
The detention and training order (DTO) sentences a young person to custody. A DTO can be given to young people aged 12-17 and lasts between 4 months and 2 years. The first half of a DTO is spent in custody and the second half is spent in the community under the supervision of the YOS.
If a young person is convicted of an offence for which an adult could receive at least 14 years in custody they may be sentenced under Section 90/91.
If the conviction is for murder, the sentence falls under Section 90 of the Powers of the Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000. This is a life sentence and the court will set a minimum term to be spent in custody, after which the young person can apply to the parole board for release.
If a young person is convicted of an offence for which an adult could receive at least 14 years in custody they may be sentenced under Section 91 of the Powers of the Criminal Court (Sentencing) Act 2000. The length of the sentence can be anywhere up to the adult maximum for the same offence, which for certain offences may be life.
If you are due to appear in court and would like more help or information please contact us.