Children and young people between the ages of 10 and 17 years old are treated differently from adults by the courts. They are usually dealt with and sentenced in the youth court. Some cases may be dealt with and sentenced in Crown Court, for example those involving very serious offences such as murder or where the young person is being tried alongside an adult.

Because the sentencing framework is different for children and young people, most of the sentencing guidelines do not cover offenders under the age of 18. In these cases, judges and magistrates must follow the definitive guideline for sentencing children and young people, which came into force in 2017.

Factors to consider

When sentencing a child or young person, judges and magistrates must consider the main aim of the youth justice system: the prevention of offending. They will also consider the welfare of the child.

Other factors that affect the sentence given to a child or young person include:

  • their age and maturity
  • the seriousness of the offence
  • their family circumstances
  • any previous offending history, and
  • whether they admitted to the offence.

The court has a number of options when it comes to the types of sentence that can be given to children and young people.

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