Children between 10 and 17 can be arrested and taken to court if they commit a crime. However, have specific rights, are treated differently from adults, and are:
dealt with by youth courts.
given different sentences.
and can be sent to secure centres for young people, not adult prisons.
The age of criminal responsibility (below which a child cannot be arrested and charged with a criminal offence regardless of its seriousness) is ten years old.
If arrested and you are under 18, the police must try to contact the person who is responsible for looking after you – normally your parent, carer or guardian. The police must also make sure that there is an ‘appropriate adult’ at the police station for you.
If a person accused of a crime (a defendant) is under 18, the case is normally heard in a youth court. Hearings in the youth court are not open to the public and are less formal than adult courts. However, the most serious offences, such as murder or manslaughter, will be dealt with in the Crown Court.
Youth offending services or teams (YOS/Ts) work with young people that get into trouble with the law. They look into the background of a young person and try to help them stay away from crime. They also:
Youth Justice Resource Hub shares practice and available evidence and research. In Wales, practitioners can access Hwb Doeth, which brings together knowledge, skills and experience to encourage the development of youth justice practice in Wales.
Free courses from OpenLearn at the Open University:
The Children’s Legal Centre Wales is a Wales-wide, bilingual service providing information and access to legal advice for children and young people. It has developed a guide called, ‘Stopped, Arrested, Interviewed, Charged’ designed to help children if they come into contact with the police, so that they know and can rely upon their rights.