Going to court

Do you have the right to have a solicitor when you go to court?

Yes, if you have been accused of a crime, you will be given a solicitor to defend you in court. If you don’t already know a solicitor, you will be given a solicitor who is on duty. You don’t need to worry about paying for a solicitor as a Duty Solicitor will be appointed and will be paid for by legal aid.

Your solicitor is there to help you so listen carefully to the advice that they give to you and always be honest with them.

Do you have the right to have anyone else with you at court?

Yes, if you are under 16 you must take your parent/s or carer/s with you. If you are 16 to 17 your parents will only have to come with you if they are given a court order.  Your case might take longer if they don’t come with you. You may want to take someone to support you. Make sure they are dressed smartly and act sensibly.

What will happen at your trial?

If you are between 10-17 years old, your case will be heard at a Youth Court. Youth courts often deals with offences such as theft, burglary, anti-social behaviour and drug offences.  If the crime committed is very serious, the case is likely to be heard at the Crown Court (this is also where adults have to go if they commit offences such as murder, rape or robbery). The Youth Court is more relaxed than courts for adults, for example, the judges and legal professionals won’t always wear wigs and gowns and they will use your first name when speaking with you.

You will be asked to sit near the judges/magistrates and will be asked questions by both your solicitor and the solicitor for the other side. Stay calm and don’t rush to answer questions. The court may also ask victims and witnesses to answer questions. Make sure that you only speak when spoken to and behave responsibly. It is a serious issue.

What will happen if you are found guilty of a crime?

If you are found guilty of a crime you will be sentenced. A sentence tells you how long you will have to spend in a Youth Prison or doing community service. Sentences can vary from 4 months to 2 years if you are 10-17 years old. If the case is very serious and is heard in the Crown Court then the sentences can be much longer. You can, in that case, receive an extended sentence, sometimes this can be as long as an adult for the same offence, but it cannot be longer.

Sentences given by a Youth Court are often divided between a time in custody and a time in the community under the supervision of the Youth Offending Team.

If you disagree with the verdict there is the possibility to appeal. The court staff will be able to give you more information about this.

For more info see What can happen to me if I break the law?