Types of sentences for young people

Courts have a range of different sentences they can give offenders aged 10-17. These include:

Discharge – absolute or conditional – these are the same as those for adult offenders;

Fine – as with adults, the fine should reflect the offence committed and the offender’s ability to pay. For offenders under 16, paying the fine is the responsibility of a parent/guardian and it will be their ability to pay that is taken into account when setting the level of the fine;

Referral order – this requires the offender to attend a youth offender panel (made up of two members of the local community and an advisor from a youth offending team) and agree a contract, containing certain commitments, which will last between three months and a year. The aim is for the offender to make up for the harm caused and address their offending behaviour. An order must be imposed for a first time young offender who has pleaded guilty (unless the court decides that another sentence is justified) and may be imposed in other circumstances.

Youth rehabilitation order – this is a community sentence which can include one or more of 18 different requirements that the offender must comply with for up to three years. Some examples of the requirements that can be imposed are a curfew, supervision, unpaid work, electronic monitoring, drug treatment, mental health treatment and education requirements.

Custodial sentences – young offenders can receive custodial sentences but they will only be imposed in the most serious cases. When they are given, they aim to provide training and education and rehabilitate the offender so they don’t reoffend. Sentences can be spent in secure children’s homes, secure training centres and young offender institutions.

  • If a young person between 12 and 17 years old is sentenced in the youth court, a Detention and Training Order (DTO) is available.  This can last between four months and two years.
  • In the Crown Court, a Detention and Training Order (DTO) can also be given – the same as in the youth court.
  • For more serious offences in the Crown Court, longer term detention is available where the offence committed carries a maximum sentence of at least 14 years’ imprisonment or is one of the offences listed in section 91 of the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act, 2000.
  • If  a young person is convicted of a specified offence and the Crown Court considers that there is a significant risk of serious harm to members of the public from the young person committing further specified offences, then the court may pass a sentence of  detention for life or an extended sentence of detention.
  • Detention during Her Majesty’s Pleasure. This is a mandatory life sentence and will be imposed when an offender is convicted or pleads guilty to murder. Schedule 21 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 states that the starting point for determining the minimum sentence where the offender is under 18 years of age, is 12 years as opposed to 15 years for those over the age of 18.

More information can be found in the guideline on sentencing children and young people.

For more information on youth justice, visit the Youth Justice Board website.