What happens if I commit an offence?
This short film by the Youth Justice Legal Centre explains what happens if you are arrested and taken to the police station:
The police have five options for dealing with young people who have committed an offence:
- No further action
- Community resolution
- Youth caution
- Youth conditional caution
- Charge to court (for prosecution through the courts)
If further action is needed, an ‘out-of-court disposal order’ may be considered for a young person who has committed a low level offence. This could be in the form of community resolution, a youth caution or a youth conditional caution. We will work with the police to make an informed decision about the most appropriate action to take. We will also make sure that young people who are considered vulnerable or at risk of further offending are supported and signposted into support services at the earliest opportunity.
Below is a brief overview of each of the five options:
No further action (NFA)
No further action is when the police make a decision not to charge someone with an offence. This may be because there is not enough evidence or it is not in the public interest.
- This is a ‘non-statutory’ disposal, which means it does not result in a criminal record.
- It is generally used to deal with low-level crime where the young offender admits their guilt.
- Usually the victim will have agreed that they do not want more formal action taken.
If a victim is involved we can arrange a meeting so that the young person can hear how the victim has been affected by the offence and to give them an opportunity to apologise. The young person and victim both need to agree to participate for this to take place.
Sometimes the young person may need extra help to stop them from re-offending. In such cases the YOS will carry out an assessment and agree a plan to help them to improve their behaviour. Community resolutions are recorded locally against the young person’s name. However, they are not recorded on the Police National Computer, avoiding a criminal record.
Young people aged 10-17 years old can be given a youth caution if they admit a criminal offence. The police must have enough evidence to prove an offence was committed. A young person must have an appropriate adult present if they are given a youth caution. A youth caution remains on a child’s criminal record. It is considered spent (which means you would not have to disclose it for most jobs), but it will appear on an enhanced criminal record check.
Youth conditional cautions
Young people aged 10-17 years old can be given a youth conditional caution if they admit a criminal offence. Youth conditional cautions are a caution with one or more conditions attached. If a child does not keep to the conditions they could be prosecuted for the original offence. A young person must have an appropriate adult present if they are given a youth conditional caution. All young people who receive youth conditional cautions will have been referred to the YOS. A youth conditional caution remains on a child’s criminal record. It is considered ‘spent’ (which means you would not have to disclose it for most jobs), but it will appear on an enhanced criminal record check.
Charge to court
If a young person has committed offences before and/or the offence(s) is considered serious enough, the police and YOS may decide that the young person should be charged with the offence to appear in court.
The police will decide if the young person can go home until the court hearing. Most young people are released but they may have to follow certain rules, known as ‘police bail’ while waiting to appear in court. Occasionally, an offence is so serious that a young person will be kept in custody until the court hearing. This may be in local authority accommodation or in a secure unit.
The young person will be given a date to attend the youth court – usually this will be at a youth court but occasionally it may be a ‘virtual court’ using video technology. Parents or carers are expected to attend court with the young person. If the young person is in care a social worker is expected to attend as well. The YOS will advise the court on the best sentence to deal with the offence(s) committed based on their knowledge of the young person.