What can happen to me if I break the law?

For children under the age of 10

The age of criminal responsibility in the UK is 10. This means that you cannot be charged with a crime if you are younger than that, but there are other things that can happen.

Local Child Curfew You may be banned from being in a public place between 9pm and 6am, unless you are with an adult. This can last up to 90 days.

Child Safety Order If you have done something that would be a crime if you were over the age of 10, the court can make a Child Safety Order. This means that you will be placed under the supervision of a social worker or member of the Youth Offending Team. This order will last up to 3 months or, in some extreme cases, 12 months.

Wardship You may be made a ward of court. This means that the High Court will become your legal guardian and will make decisions on your behalf. This is only used in extreme cases. For more information, see Wardship.

For children and young people aged 10-17

If you have committed a criminal offence you may have to attend a Youth Court. A Youth Court is a special type of court for children and young people and is different from an adult court.

At Youth Court, you may receive one of the following court ordered sentences if you are found guilty of a criminal offence:

Absolute discharge – You are found guilty of an offence but you get no punishment.

Conditional discharge – You are found guilty of an offence but you get no punishment, as long as you don’t commit another offence in a specified period of time.

S.12 Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000.

A Referral Order If you are a first time offender, you will be referred to the Youth Offender Panel. The Panel will agree a contract with you, which will involve making it up to the victim (such as paying compensation or doing unpaid work for them).

S.16 Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000.

A Curfew Order – This means you will have to stay at a certain place at certain hours of the day for a maximum of six months.

S.37 Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000.

An Exclusion Order – You will be stopped from entering a certain place for a maximum of three months.

S.40A Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000.

An Attendance Centre Order  This means you will have to go to a special centre which is run by the Police.

S.60 Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000.

A Supervision OrderA supervision order can last up to three years. This means you will have to meet with a specified person (usually the supervisor) and agree to do certain things, for example, staying in a certain place between 6pm and 6am or having medical treatment.

S.63 Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000.

An Action Plan Order – This means you will need to follow a plan to change your behaviour over a period of three months. It will give you an early opportunity for work and/or support to help prevent further offending.

S.69 Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000.

A Reparation Order – This means you will need to do work to make up for your offence, either for the victim or for the community. You will not be asked to do more than 24 hours work.

Ss.73 and 74 Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000.

A Fine The fine should reflect the offence committed. If you are under the age of 16, paying the fine is the responsibility of your parent/guardian.

S.137 Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000.

If you have committed a serious crime, like murder or rape, your case will be heard in the Youth Court to start with but it is likely to be moved to the Crown Court (an adult court).

If you are found guilty of a serious offence in the Crown Court, the following sentences can be passed:

  • For manslaughter or other serious crimes, such as rape, robbery or indecent assault, you may be given a prison sentence over the normal two year maximum if you are under 18 years old.
  • For murder, the court must pass a sentence of ‘detention during Her Majesty’s pleasure’. This means that you will get a life sentence. For adults this means their minimum sentence is 15 years, but for those under 18 the minimum sentence is 12 years.
Schedule 21 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003

Detention and Training Order If you are convicted of something which you would have been sent to prison for if you were an adult, a Detention and Training Order can be made. This will only be done if the court thinks that the public need to be protected from you, and that a custodial sentence is the only way to do that. The maximum term is 24 months. The first half of the sentence is spent in custody, with the second half being spent in the community under the supervision of the Youth Offending Team.

S.23 Children and Young Persons Act 1969. 72. S.100 Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000.

Sex Offenders Register – If you are convicted of, or receive a reprimand or final warning for a sexual offence, your name will be placed on the sex offenders register. However, if you were under 18 at the time, registration is for half the time that an adult has their name registered for.

S.82(2) Sexual Offences Act 2003

The Crown Court can make the following community orders as well as those which can be imposed by the Youth Court:

  • an unpaid work requirement: This means you will need to do unpaid work in the community for between 40 and 300 hours;
  • an activity requirement: This means you will need to meet a particular person at a particular time and/or take part in certain activities, but these must not be for more than 60 days on average.
  • a programme requirement: This means you will need to take part in a programme named in the order.
  • a prohibited activity requirement: This means you will need to stop doing certain things on certain days or for a specific period of time;
  • a residence requirement: This means you will need to stay at a certain place for a certain period of time;
  • a mental health requirement: This means you will need to receive treatment under the direction of a registered medical practitioner or a chartered psychologist (or both) for a certain period of time to try to improve your mental health;
  • a drug rehabilitation requirement: This means you will need to receive treatment for a specified period to try to help you with your problems with drugs.
  • an alcohol treatment requirement: This means you will need to receive treatment for a specified period of time to try to help you with your problems with alcohol. You will have to show that you are not resisting the programme. The order has to be for at least six months.
s.177 Criminal Justice Act 2003