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A guide to the UK's juvenile justice system

The United Kingdom juvenile justice system is intended to provide a procedure for trying youngsters accused of crimes, with the intention of preventing recurrence. It consists of a set of rules for the investigation and interviews of juveniles. The youth justice system includes juvenile courts, which operate under a set of rules designed to ensure that justice is done to juveniles

Arrest and interview

Custody officers When an officer arrests a juvenile, he/she must ascertain his/her age, as the minimum age for criminal responsibility is ten. Then, the identity of the parents or legal guardians must be ascertained, and they must be immediately contacted and summoned to attend the juvenile's interview. No juvenile may be interviewed without the presence of an appropriate adult, who may be the child's parent, subject to certain exceptions, for example to protect witnesses and prevent further crime. Interview Juveniles must be informed of their right to have an appropriate adult. During the interview, the adult may observe the proceedings and advise the juvenile. The adult and the juvenile must be entitled to confer privately at any time. The youngster is entitled to a lawyer, just as an adult is. Any social workers responsible for the juvenile must be informed. Bail In juvenile crime cases, there is a presumption in favour of bail, but it needs not be given in every case. It is only possible to refuse bail if the child is over twelve and the offence is serious. These include offenses carrying over fourteen years of prison, sexual and repeated offenses. If this occurs, the youngster should be remanded to secure local authority accomodation

Juvenile courts

If a case reaches court, it should normally be tried in the juvenile courts. These courts deal with youngsters between the ages of ten and seventeen. After seventeen, the accused will face an adult court. However, there are exceptions when a juvenile might be tried with an adult in an adult court. These are cases when the juvenile and the adult are both accused of the same offense. The focus of any sentence of a juvenile is prevention and rehabilitation, rather than punishment. Courts tend to give a series of warnings, fines and supervision orders. The youngster may receive probation, but imprisonment in a young offenders institution is possible. When sentencing, courts must take into account reports from schools, social workers and any other authorities involved in the case. The press is forbidden to identify a juvenile in court without the specific permission of the trial judge. They may not report the address or the school, or any information likely to identify the youngster. Pictures may not be shown.

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