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Thursday, 3 September 2009

If your child is arrested and charged

If your child gets into trouble with the law for committing a crime and criminal proceedings are started, you need to be aware of what to expect and where to get advice.

Your rights

If your child is arrested for a criminal offence and they are under 17 years old, the police must tell you as soon as possible. The police should not interview your child until you are present, unless a delay would mean an immediate risk of harm to someone or serious loss of, or damage to, property. In such cases the police have to ensure that an independent 'appropriate adult' is present to make sure your child is treated fairly.

Young people aged 13-19 (or up to 25 for those with a learning difficulty or disability) can get confidential advice, support and information from Connexions on 080 800 13219, or from the Connexions website.

Your child has the same rights to legal advice as an adult.

Criminal proceedings against your child

If your child is under 10 years old, they cannot be taken to court and charged with a criminal offence. However, once they are 10 or over, they are treated in the same way as any young person under 18 years old and will be dealt with by the Youth Justice System.

If it is the first time your child has got into trouble, behaved anti-socially or committed a minor offence, they can be dealt with outside the court system by a pre-court order which will see them either formally reprimanded or warned by a police officer. This will be recorded as a criminal record, and someone from the Youth Offending Team may contact you to see if your child needs support or advice.

If the police charge your child, they will be bailed (allowed to go home) or remanded (made to stay) in custody before appearing in a Youth Court. If your child pleads guilty or is convicted of the charge, they will be sentenced by the Youth Court. For more serious offences, the Youth Court will refer the case to the Crown Court.

If your child is jointly charged with an adult, they will be dealt with in the adult court.

Getting legal advice – free legal advice helpline

If your child is faced with criminal charges or has to go to court, it's important to talk to an experienced adviser.

The Children's Legal Centre offers free advice on a wide range of issues. Helpline 0845 120 2948 - 09.00 am to 5.00 pm daily.

For legal and advice services in your area, call the Community Legal Service on 0845 608 1122. Alternatively go to the directory at the Community Legal Service Direct website.

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