Youth Offenders And The Criminal Justice System: Procedures And Practices


Start your research by reading the appropriate sections in Newburn (2013) Criminology – the core text for the unit. Guided reading will help you develop the answer aided by relevant material listed in independent study. For example, Newburn’s Criminology has sections on classicism and positivism, and realism. In addition, he has sections on prisons in a number of areas – look carefully through the detailed contents – crime and the media, youth justice and crime prevention. By researching Carrabine et  al (2014) you can develop these ideas further in chapters 4 and 15, chapter 18, and chapter 20. Hale et al (2009) has similar sections. For the remaining questions, Davis et al (2010) for Youth Justice (Ch 8) and Hucklesby (2009) chapter 1 on Crime Prevention will add to your research. You will find these titles in the guided reading. The next stage is to select appropriate titles from the Independent Study list and where possible the list of articles. You will find specific texts on crime prevention, media and crime, and theory, while sections of others will address prisons and youth justice. A very useful source is the Oxford Handbook of Criminology.  By building your research from introductory to advanced reading you will develop an argument based on your understanding of the evidence.

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As you can see from the above guidance, each question demands from you systematic research. This cannot be done in a day, and if you try, this will lead to short-cuts such as cutting and pasting from the web and certain failure. Give yourself ample time to research, write and demonstrate your abilities.

The study of crime, criminals, and criminal justice comes under Criminology. The subject of criminology involves various approaches and has been created by different academic disciplines. Criminology has recently become a topic of interest for numerous scholars and students across the world due to expansion of criminal justice at a similar pace. It deals with the definition of crime, how it should be dealt with, and how it should be measured. There are a number of crimes which occur around us in our daily life. The most common forms of crime around the world are property crime, crimes against human rights, destruction to the environment, and some state crimes also. In true sense, crime is a sociological concept as it is a social construct and does not exist as autonomous unit. Although, in present era, males and females commit crimes in approximately similar proportion, a major proportion of prosecuted crime is committed by youths (Carrabine et al., 2014). Youngsters generally commit such kind of crimes that are required to be reported and younger offenders are more likely to be followed by the criminal justice system. In this essay, we will discuss about what the procedures are in criminal justice system for the young offenders and how it implies on them.

The term “Custodial sentence” means a punishment where young offenders above the age of 12 years are held in a secure place such as in young offenders’ institution. The word “Liable” means legally responsible. “Magistrate Court” deals with less serious offences by adults and young offenders. “Youth Courts” is a section of magistrate court for people aged 10-18 years of age.

The crimes committed by youth are determined under two broad aspects, that is, rebellious youth cultures and procedures of youth justice. The concept of juvenile delinquency was established for the first time in a most comprehensive way by sociologist Geoff Pearson in 1983. From the 19th Century onwards, new techniques to deal with the issue of delinquency involve juvenile reformatories, shifting of juveniles’ cases to the lower courts, abolishing imprisonment of child delinquents in adult prisons, and creation of juvenile courts (Natale & Williams, 2012).

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According to Section 50 of the “Children & Young Persons Act 1933”, children who are less 10 years old cannot be held culpable of any crime (House of Commons , 2011). In the criminal justice system, an individual who is below the age of 14 years is considered as ‘child’ and an individual between 14 and 18 years comes under the category of ‘young person’ or ‘juvenile’. The main objectives of the Youth Justice System is to stop the children from committing any kind of offences, which is established under the Section 37(1) of the “Crime and Disorder Act 1998” (Blakeman, 2016). Several policies have been made by the government in England and Wales in order to stop the young people from committing offences. With the assistance of local Youth Offending Teams, various efforts focused to deter offenders and those who are vulnerable to offending have been developed. To prevent the youth from getting involved in crimes, the best and the most effective technique can be to prevent them from getting into trouble in the initial stages. Otherwise, it is more likely that they might commit crime or get involved in the socially unacceptable behaviour as it is expected that early interference could save a lot of time and expenditure to be occurred on public services. The troublesome conditions include lack of education, unhealthy family relationships, association with those involved in offences and substance abuse. In the initial stage, there are various programmes which are aimed to deal with the risk factors responsible, to develop the interests of young people in various constructive activities, and to increase their knowledge (University of Essex, 2016).

It is the procedure of the court that if a young wrongdoer is charged with an offence, he/she have to be presented before the court and it depends upon the decision of the court whether it will provide bail or custodial remand to the offender if the case cannot be dealt with instantly. In case, if a young person is found to be accountable for crime, a date is given for the trial of the case on which all the evidences are presented before the magistrate, after which he/she decides whether the young person is guilty or not. On being proved guilty, the most appropriate sentence is decided for the offender. The youth court refers the case to the superior court, if case is considered as extremely serious. The offences, for which maximum penalty is six months in prison, are sent for trial and sentence to adult magistrates’ courts. These courts look after the cases that involve individual above the age of 18 years.

The youth court looks after the cases that involve individuals below the age of 18 years. These courts are part of magistrates’ court. The youth panel magistrates and district judges are the one who preside over in these courts. They can grant Detention orders and Training Orders of up to 24 months to those who are held guilty by them, as well as a variety of sentences in the community. The hearings in the youth court take place in private and only victim is allowed to attend the hearings that too, with the permission of the court. Despite the fact that the hearings are kept confidential, the requirements and wishes of victims are also kept under consideration by the court and, they often are allowed to have contribution in the process of sentencing (Marsh & Melville, 2014).

In order to prevent youth from getting involved in the procedure of the youth justice system, they are at the initial stage handled by the police and local authorities without sending the case to the court, only in case of anti-social behaviours and minor offences committed by them. They are offered help and support by the police and local authorities to stop them from offending again. Pre-court measures include informal warning, scolding, and final warning. To the first time offenders, who have committed small offence, senior police officer issues an informal and verbal warning or caution. Reprimand refers to a formal verbal warning which is given to the young person who is offending for the second time or if the offence is of a serious kind, at the police station in presence of his/her parents. A final warning is given by senior police officer, if a young person commits a more serious offence even after scolding. He/she is sent to the Youth Offending Team. The sentences which are planned within the community include Community Punishment Order, Supervision Order, Conditional Discharge, Reparation Order, etc. Such kind of sentences in the community depends upon the severity and extent of an offence committed by the youth (Burke, 2013).

For serious crimes, custodial sentences are provided by the court. According to Section 73 of the “Crime and Disorder Act 1998”, the Detention and Training Order (DTO) is established as a new custodial sentence for youth offenders below the age of 18 years. To make custody more effective in order to prevent reoffending, this new procedure of sentence was planned. For the offenders of age between 15 and 17 years, sentence of detention and for the offenders of age between 12 and 14 years, the sentence of the secure training order (STO), is substituted by DTO. As per DTO, individual may be sentenced for the period of 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 18, and 24 months by the court. Out of the total period of sentence, half of the punishment is to be spent in custody, while for the other half under the observation in community (Hucklesby, 2007).

According to Section 37(2) of the “Crime and Disorder Act”, it is duty of people working in the youth justice system to follow the purpose of the system mentioned under Section 37 (1) of the act i.e. to avert the children and youth from committing offences or crimes. It is planned to ensure that each one of the young offenders are provided with the most appropriate form of training in order to prevent them from reoffending. The Secretary of the State determines the DTO to be served in Secure Children’s Home (SCH), Secure Training Centre (STC), in a YOI, or at any other place which depends upon his/her discretion. On the basis of appropriate behaviour of the offender or if the established criteria have been met, there are provisions for release from custody earlier than the sentence granted by the court (Newburn, 2013).

For serious offences such as murder and other major offences, an individual below 18 years shall be sentenced to be detained at Her Majesty’s discretion under Section 90 of the Powers of “Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000”. As per Section 91, children and young person who are convicted in serious charges shall be sentenced in a similar way as in the case of an adult which may be life imprisonment also. The place of detaining and the conditions under which they are to be kept are directed by the Secretary of the State under Section 92 of the Act.

For certain brutal or sexual offences, Section 226 of the “Criminal Justice Act 2003” provides a maximum penalty of imprisonment of 10 years or more. The young offenders, who are found to be dangerous by the court, are given a sentence of detention to protect the public unless it is considered by the court that a sentence of detention for life under Section 91 is reasonable or prolonged sentence under Section 228 would be suitable (Blakeman, 2016; Fox & Arnull, 2013).


The provisions under the Criminal justice system of the United Kingdom for children and the young offenders are flexible and at the same time severe as well in order to prevent the youths from committing such offensive crimes. The policies of the government promote the functioning of local Youth Offending Teams to prevent the youth from committing the crimes. In all, the efforts of government and the judiciary will positively achieve success in preventing the offences committed by the children and young people.


Blakeman, I., 2016. Youth justice system in England and Wales. The 139th International Training Course.

Burke, L., 2013. The 2013 Offender Rehabilitation Bill:‘A curious mix?’. British Society of Criminology Newsletter, pp.20-24.

Carrabine, E. et al., 2014. Criminology. 3rd ed. Routledge.

Fox, D. & Arnull, E., 2013. Social Work in the Youth Justice System: A Multidisciplinary Perspective. Mc Graw-Hill Education.

House of Commons , 2011. The youth justice system in England and Wales: Reducing offending by young people. House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts.

Hucklesby, A., 2007. Understanding Offenders’ Compliance: A Case Study of Electronically Monitored Curfew Orders. Journal of Law and Society, 36(2), pp.248-71.

Marsh, I. & Melville, G., 2014. Crime, Justice and the Media. Routledge.

Natale, L. & Williams, N., 2012. Youth Crime in England and Wales. CIVITAS Institute for the Study of Civil Society.

Newburn, T., 2013. Criminology. Routledge.

University of Essex, 2016. IDEATE. University of Essex.