Court procedures for young people

Pleading guilty to an offence

If a young person pleads guilty, the court has various options open to them. If it is the first time that a young person has appeared in court and they plead guilty, the court has only four options open to it:

  • absolute discharge;
  • hospital order;
  • referral order; and
  • custody

If the court decides to give a referral order the sentence will be made that day.  If the Magistrates think the offence(s) is/are so serious that a period of custody is deserved, they will put the case off for the Youth Offending Service (YOS) to prepare reports about the young person so that they can decide what sentence to give.

If a young person pleading guilty has previous convictions, they are not subject to the above rules.  This means that the court has all of the sentencing option open to them.

If the Magistrates feel they can deal with the matter that day, there are several things they can do, including a conditional discharge, or a fine, or an attendance centre order.  If they feel that a reparation order or action plan order is more appropriate, they can ask the member of the YOS in court to provide a 'stand down' report.  This means that he or she will interview the young person at court, and prepare a report on them there and then allowing the Magistrates to sentence.

If the Magistrates want any other disposal, they will have to put the matter off for two or three weeks for a full pre sentence report to be prepared.  This will be done by the YOS, and will require the young person to attend interviews so that the report can be prepared in time for the next occasion in court.