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Tuesday, 2 October 2023

If your child is arrested and charged

If your child gets into trouble with the law for committing a crime and criminal proceedings are started, you need to be aware of what to expect and where to get advice.

Your rights

If your child is arrested for a criminal offence and they are under 17 years old, the police must tell you as soon as possible. The police should not interview your child until you are present, unless a delay would mean an immediate risk of harm to someone or serious loss of, or damage to, property. In such cases the police have to ensure that an independent 'appropriate adult' is present to make sure your child is treated fairly.

Your child has the same rights to legal advice as an adult.

Criminal proceedings against your child

If your child is under ten years old, they cannot be charged with a criminal offence. However, once they are ten or over, they are treated in the same way as any young person under 18 years old.

If it is the first time your child has got into trouble, behaved anti-socially or committed a minor offence, they can be dealt with outside the court system. They can be given a 'pre-court order' which means they'll be formally reprimanded or warned by a police officer. This will be recorded as a criminal record. Someone from the local youth offending team will usually contact you to see if you or your child needs support or advice. To find out more, follow the link 'Youth offending teams: what they are' below.

If the police charge your child, they will be 'remanded on bail' (allowed to go home) or 'remanded to custody' (made to stay). They will then have to appear at a youth court. If your child pleads guilty or is convicted of the charge, they will be sentenced by the youth court. For more serious offences, the youth court will refer the case to the Crown Court.

If your child is jointly charged with an adult, they will be dealt with in an adult court.

Getting legal advice – free legal advice helpline

If your child is faced with criminal charges or has to go to court, it's important to talk to an experienced adviser.

The Children's Legal Centre offers free advice on a wide range of issues. Helpline 0845 120 2948 - 09.00 am to 5.00 pm daily.

For legal and advice services in your area, follow the link 'Where to get legal advice' below.

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