Q. What happens if I get arrested?
A. If you are under 17 the police must call an appropriate adult
to the police station i.e. your social worker or foster carer. In addition
you have the right to ask for a solicitor, and you should do this immediately.
A duty solicitor is always available to see you. This is a free service.
Appropriate adults and solicitors have different roles. The adult is there
to support you and the solicitor is there to give you legal advice.
Q. When can I ask to see a solicitor?
A. On arrival at the Police Station the Custody Sergeant will
advise you of your rights including the right to free legal advice. You
can and should ask for a solicitor, even if your social worker or foster
carer don't think you need one.
If you don't know a solicitor you can ask for the duty solicitor. (The
duty solicitor is independent and is nothing to do with the police).
Even if you think you have done nothing wrong it is important to have a solicitor
present at this early stage.
Q.What will happen at Court?
You can have a lawyer to help you in Court. The Court will ask you if you have
done the crime. If you tell the Court that you did not do the crime, the Court
will ask you to come back on another date for a trial. This is the day when Police
witnesses tell their side of the story and you can tell your side. If the Court
finds you guilty or you admit that you are guilty, then the Court has to decide
how to punish you. This is called the "sentence".
Q. What can the Court do to me?
Most young people who are punished at Court do not get locked up. The Courts
have a range of other powers which include telling you to make good the damage
you have done, giving up some of your leisure time or seeing a special type of
Social Worker from the Youth Offending Team each week. You will only be punished
if you admit the offence or the Court finds you guilty.
In the Youth Court, if you have reached the age of 12, you can be sentenced
to detention (locked up) if the Court thinks what you did is serious.
For some more serious crimes, your trial will take place in the Crown
Court, where there is a Judge and a Jury, and where the Court can send
you into detention from the age of 10 years.
Most young people aged 15 or over who are sentenced to detention will go to a
Young Offenders Institution which is part of the Prison Service. Younger people
will usually go to a Secure Unit.
The powers of the Criminal Court are very complicated. If you are charged with
an offence, you should get early advice from a specialist defence lawyer.