Young offenders and the criminal justice system
Young offenders and the criminal justice system

The following Corporate Crime guidance note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Young offenders and the criminal justice system
  • The youth justice system
  • Youth cautions and youth conditional cautions
  • The prosecution of young offenders
  • Sentencing young offenders

The youth justice system

The law that governs the system of criminal justice in respect of children and young persons in England and Wales can be complex. In essence, however, the law as it applies to young offenders is an adaptation of the rules relating to adults.

The principal aims of the youth justice system are two-fold. The first aim of the youth justice system is to prevent offending by children and young persons. Secondly, under the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 (CYPA 1933) when dealing with a child or young offender, the court must have regard to the welfare of the child or young person and 'must take steps for removing him from undesirable surroundings and for securing that proper provision is made for his education and training'.

Key definitions

There are various terms used to describe young offenders, depending on the person's age and context (for example whether the young person is appearing before a court or is in the police station). The terminology can be significant because the rules differ depending on context and the age of a person.

'Juvenile' under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE 1984) is used to describe a person who has not yet attained the age of 17. Section 42 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 (CJCA 2015) amends