Most young people will never commit a crime or be involved with the police, but it does happen. If you have or are suspected of having committed a crime, a number of things can happen. On this page, you can find out what options there are, what rights you have and how committing a crime can possibly impact on your future life.

  • Offending
  • Custody
  • Cautions
  • Court
  • Sentencing
  • Prison
  • No further action

    The police make a decision not to charge the offender. This can be because of lack of evidence or it is not in the public interest to take it further.

  • Community resolution

    This is usually used for low-level crimes where the offender admits their guilt. Often the victim will agree that they do not wish to take the incident any further, but they can ask to be involved to explain how it affected them. It will not result in a criminal record, but the Youth Offending Service can carry out an assessment and then draw up a plan to help improve the offender’s behaviour.

  • Youth caution

    10-17 year olds can be given a caution if they admit the offence. A youth caution remains on a your criminal record. It is considered spent (which means you would not have to disclose it for most jobs), but it will appear on an enhanced criminal record check.

  • Youth conditional caution

    10-17 years olds can be given a youth conditional caution if they admit a criminal offence. Youth conditional cautions are a caution with one or more conditions attached. If a child does not keep to the conditions they could be prosecuted for the original offence. Like a caution, It is considered ‘spent’, but it will appear on an enhanced criminal record check.

  • Charge to court (for prosecution through the courts)

    For serious offences, the police and Youth Offending Service may decide that the young person should be charged to appear in court. You are often likely be able to go home until the hearing, but sometimes an offence is so serious that a young person will be kept in custody until the court hearing. You will be given a date to attend court where you and parents or carers are expected to attend court with the young person. If the young person is in care a social worker is expected to attend as well. The Youth Offending Service will advise the court on the best sentence based on their knowledge of the young person. Click on the ‘Court’ tab to find out more.


If you are involved in a crime, if it is deemed serious enough, you can be taken to custody, it can be a scary experience. This video explains what you can expect.


If you commit a crime and are over 10 years old, the police can give you a caution, which is like being given a warning. The police are telling you that you have broken the law, but it is not serious enough to be arrested or to go to court. You will usually be cautioned if it is your first offence and you have admitted doing it.

To be given a caution, the police officer must have evidence that you have committed a crime, which has enough evidence that would lead you to being convicted if it went to court. You can only get a caution if you admit to doing it and have not committed any other crime in the past. If you do not admit to it, you can be arrested and charged.

You can also be given a conditional caution which is similar to a caution, but you have to commit to things the police ask you to do, like getting help for alcohol or drug addiction.

A caution isn’t a criminal conviction, so once it is complete, it is considered finished with , but if you commit further crimes where you end up in court, it can be used as evidence to show that you are repeatedly offending.

Will a caution stop me being able to do things?

If you complete an application, and it asks you if you have committed any crime, you do not have to include this as it is considered spent, but if you are applying for a job and there is a Disclosure and Barring Service check (DBS), the caution will show and your future employer will be able to consider whether you are the right person for the job.


If you commit a crime that is serious, you may be charged to court. This means the police have sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest for you to go to court. This can be a daunting experience, but you will be given support throughout the process.

Going to Court

This video explains what you can expect when going to court.

The court have created an interactive court so you can see how a court may look when you attend. Click on the image to visit their site.

You can find out a lot more information from the website ‘You and Co’ which provides support for young people going to court, either as offenders, victims or witnesses. Click on the image to go to the court pages on their website.

A court has a number of choices if you are found guilty of committing an offence. Firstly you may receive a custodial sentence.can decide that you receive a custodial sentence. You could be sent to one of the following places:

  • Secure children’s homes:

    For young offenders aged 10 to 14.

  • Secure Training Centres:

    For offenders up to 17 years. They provide education and training and address reasons for your behaviour.

  • Young Offender Institutions: (YOIs):

    For offenders aged 15 to 21 and are run by the Prison service. Like the secure children’s home they provide education and training and address reasons for your behaviour.

Community Sentence

The court may decide that you do not require being sent to a secure location if you are found guilty. They may request the following:

  • Fine

  • Reparation Order:

    This is to get you to understand the consequences of your crime. It may include getting the victim and offender together, or doing community work;

  • Referral Orders:

    If this is your first offence and you admit guilt, you can be referred to a Youth Offender Panel which decides on the best option lasting from 3 to 12 months. Once completed, the offence won’t have to be disclosed when applying for work;

  • Youth Rehabilitation Orders:

    This tells you what can and can’t do for up to three years. It will be in response to the crime you committed and may include things like staying away from a place, a curfew, random drugs testing or a drug addiction treatment. If you fail to comply with these orders, you may go to custody.

  • Absolute Discharge:

    If you admit you’re guilty or are found guilty of an offence, no further action will be taken and you’ll be given an absolute discharge;

  • Conditional Discharge:

    No immediate punishment is given. Instead, a period up to three years is set, and as long as you don’t commit any more offences, there will be no punishment. If you do offend in that time, you can be brought back to court and re-sentenced.


Young offender institutions are for 15 to 21-year-olds and being sent to one is a challenging experience.

The Mix website contains lots of information about crime and the law. Click on the image to find out all about Young offender institutions and what you can expect.

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