Parents’ guide to youth justice

The criminal justice system treats children differently from adults.

Significant emphasis is attached to the age of a person thought to be responsible for a crime if they are a child (under 18) at the time of committing a crime.


Age of criminal responsibility

The age of criminal responsibility in England and Wales is 10 years old. This means that children under 10 can not be arrested or charged with a crime. There are other possible consequences when children under 10 break the law

Children between 10 and 17 can be arrested and taken to court if they commit a crime.

Identity of children accused of a crime

The identity of a child aged between 10 and 17 who is charged with a crime will not be shared outside the court, unless by direct order from a judge.

Those permitted inside the court include:

  • officers of the court
  • youth offending team (YOT) workers
  • the child
  • parents / carers
  • journalists

Reporting restrictions

Reporting restrictions include not revealing the name, home address or school of any child concerned in the proceedings, or photographs, which may make identifying them likely.

Your child will remain anonymous throughout proceedings but these restrictions can be challenged – usually by the media – after proceedings have ended.

Youth court process

The youth court is a type of magistrates’ court which deals with children.

Cases in the youth court are either dealt with by magistrates or a single district judge, sitting alone.

In a youth court:

  • the proceedings are designed to be less formal
  • the public are not permitted to enter the court
  • defendants (your child) will be addressed by their first name

If the victim(s) wishes to watch the proceedings they will first have to make a request to the court.

Youth courts will hear all crimes and decide if they can deal with the matter. If the offence is too serious for the youth court to deal with, your child’s case will be sent to the Crown Court.

How children who offend are dealt with in court

Children are dealt with differently at court and are referred to by their first names.

We always encourage parents/carers to attend court with their child.

If your child is 16 or under, as their parent/carer, you must attend court with them.

A YOT worker will complete a parenting assessment to see whether parenting support would be helpful.

In more serious cases that are heard in the Crown Court, prosecuting and defending counsel (barrister) as well as the judge, may take off their wigs and robes during proceedings to put children at ease

How do we work with parents?

We work with parents in 3 ways:

What support can we offer?

The YOT can offer support and guidance in a number of practical ways:

  • we can provide suggestions  to find different ways of dealing with typical conflict situations in the home
  • we can provide support to encourage communication between you and your child to help improve your relationship
  • we can offer support groups to help you understand your child and their behaviours and to help you meet other parents who are facing similar challenges
  • we can help you to understand more about the community around us and how this impacts on young people
  • we can help you to think about and get support for your own wellbeing so that you are best able to support your child

Youth voice

We believe that children and their families should be involved not only in their own programme, but have the opportunity to develop the service as a whole.

All parents and children will be given the opportunity to give feedback on the service that they have received as part of the assessment process. During review assessments, you and your child will be asked what is going well and what still needs to happen. This is standard practice for all staff.

However, we recognise that this is not enough and we are currently developing our offer to make children’s voices heard in order to genuinely impact the service delivery.  

If you are interested in finding out about more opportunities to help develop the service, please contact the YOT or speak to your caseworker.

Further information

Restorative justice leaflet.

Hackney Young Futures Commission

Valuing the future through young voices: summary report November 2020.

Page updated on: 28 April 2021

Hackney Youth Offending Team


275 Mare Street
E8 1GR


Opening times

  • Mon to Fri: 9am-5pm (except bank holidays)