Legislation Children and Young Persons Act 1933
Defendants under the age of 18 are usually tried in the youth court, save for exceptional cases. An individual under the age of 18 may be tried in an adult court is the charge is:
(a) Homicide, or
(b) An offence to which s.91 of the PCC(S)A 2000 applies, or
(c) A firearms offence to which s.51A applies, or
(d) An offence falling into the ‘dangerous offender’ provisions of the CJA 2003
Or alternatively, (e) where the defendant is charged alongside an adult.
A youth court bench must consist of either a district judge sitting alone, or not more than three lay magistrates, including one man and one woman. Only in exceptional circumstances will a lay bench be constituted solely of men or solely of women. The chairman of the bench must be a district judge or an approved youth court chairman.
There are restrictions on who is allowed into court during a youth court hearing (s.47(2) CYPA 1933). The only individuals allowed within the court are those directly involved in the case. Solicitors and counsel waiting for their cases to be called on are not allowed to sit in on a case preceding theirs, nor is the general public allowed to observe. Reporting restrictions also apply.
A parent/guardian of a defendant under the age of 16 must attend court unless the court is satisfied it would be unreasonable to require their attendance. In respect of defendants aged 16 or 17 the court may require a parent/guardian to attend, but is not bound to do so.
Trials conducted in the youth court are similar to those in the magistrates’ court as they too are governed by part 37 of the Criminal Procedure Rules. Procedurally the trial will be less formal than in the adult court. Youths will be referred to by their first names, will sit in the well of the court rather than the dock, and promise, rather than swear an oath, to tell the truth when giving evidence. Technically, youths are not ‘convicted’ but there is a ‘finding of guilt’. Similarly, they do not have a ‘sentence’ imposed, but are subject to an ‘order made on the finding of guilt’.