Court procedures for young people
Going to court
The first thing a young person should do when notified that they are to go to court, is to obtain a solicitor. As most young people cannot afford to pay for a solicitor, they should be able to get legal aid. If, by the time they get to court, a young person still does not have a solicitor, they should ask at the court for the duty solicitor.When a young person arrives at the court, they should first of all find the usher who is organising the court schedule for that day and inform them that they have arrived. If a young person is late, or fails to attend, it is taken seriously and will usually result in an arrest warrant.
Young people should be careful to arrive in good time for their appearance, and should attend with at least one of their parents, or another appropriate adult. The Magistrates will expect a parent to be in attendance, and if no one comes with a young person, the court may put the case off to a later date and send a summons for the parent to attend on the next occasion. If the parent does not attend on the summons date, the court can issue a warrant for their arrest.
Who will be in court and what do they do
The usher is the person who keeps a note of which defendants are present and which solicitor is representing them. They also decide which order people will be seen in, and this usually depends on solicitors being available when the usher is ready to bring the case before the court.
The clerk is a legally qualified person, whose job it is to guide the Magistrates in matters of the law. Magistrates will expect the clerk to explain any points of law to them, and to help with drawing up reasons for the decisions that they make about young people.
The prosecutor is a solicitor who represents the Crown Prosecution Service. He or she will usually speak first about the young person, telling the Magistrates about the alleged offence. The prosecutor will read from police and witness statements when they tell the Magistrates about offences, and will make them aware of any previous convictions (but not until after a person is known to be guilty).
The defence is the solicitor who acts for a person accused of a crime. They will speak to the young person before going into court, so that they are aware of the circumstances of the offence. It is important that solicitors know everything about any incidents, so that they can respond to any issues raised in court.
The Youth Offending service
The Youth Offending Service (YOS) will have a representative in the youth court to advise the magistrates of any information that they have about the young person. The YOS representative will inform the court about a young person's compliance with previous sentences and any risk issues relevant to sentencing. They ensure young people are aware of the requirements of orders, make arrangements for assessment reports to be written and in some circumstances produce 'stand down' reports for the court. The person in court will record court processes and outcomes so that a young person's progress through the court system will be monitored.
The Magistrates will be people from the local community who have been asked to serve as Magistrates and to help with the dispensing of justice. They are not lawyers, but have been trained on how to be Magistrates by the Lord Chancellor's Department. They have specific rules that they have to abide by, and are guided through the process of dealing with offenders by a justice's manual and the court clerk. There will usually be three Magistrates, but there can be occasions when there are only two. If there is only one Magistrate sitting in the court, this usually means that he or she is a 'District Judge' and is a legally qualified person themselves, meaning that they can sit on their own through the proceedings.