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Youth Offending Service

 Advice and support for young people who have offended and are going through the court system or are at risk of offending.

young people's hands together

What is the Youth Offending Service?

The Youth Offending Service (YOS) is a multi-agency team which works with young people and families to address factors that lead to offending behaviour (age 10 to 17).

The YOS is made up of practitioners from:

  • council staff
  • police
  • London Community Rehabilitation Company
  • drug and alcohol service
  • children and adults mental health services (CAMHS).

The principle aims of the youth justice system are to:

  • prevent young people getting into crime
  • reduce the number of first-time entrants to the system
  • reduce re-offending
  • reduce the amount of young people within the youth secure estate
  • safeguard young people from harm
  • protect the public from harm
  • repair the harm caused by youth crime

The role of the YOS includes:

  • working with young people who have been convicted of offences
  • working with young people who have received out of court disposals
  • helping young people and their families at court
  • working with the parents of young people who offend
  • working with the victims of crime
  • supervising young people serving a community sentence
  • working with a young person if they’re sentenced to custody

It outlines processes that young people may become involved in and provides information to their parents or carers as well as their victims.

Before attending court

If you're charged with a crime you may need to attend court. Make sure your parents check to see if you're entitled to legal aid.

Your solicitor

A solicitor represents you in court and gives you advice about what to do there. If you're able to get one before your case they will also talk to you before you go to court and tell you what will happen in the court room.

If you can’t get a solicitor before your case then when you arrive at court tell the usher you need to use the duty solicitor. There is always a solicitor in court who can represent you.

What to wear

You should try to look as smart as you can in court. If you have a white shirt and dark trousers or a skirt as part of your school uniform you can wear those.

Wear smart shoes instead of trainers and try to avoid wearing anything ripped or revealing if you can. Make sure your trousers are pulled up instead of sitting low. You are not allowed to wear hats in the court room.

Tips for attending court

Mencap's video, Raising Your Game - Getting ready for court, has useful advice for young people attending court.

What to expect in court and how to behave in the court room

Most cases where a young person is charged will be heard in youth court, which takes place on Wednesday every week. For a morning court appearance you should arrive at 9:30am. For an afternoon appearance, you should arrive at 1:30pm.

Attending court

Report to the court usher when you arrive at court, they'll normally be holding a clipboard. They'll ask your name and who is representing you. If there is not anyone representing you they'll arrange for the duty solicitor to represent you. They will then tell you where to wait and in which court the case will be heard.

In the court room

Only parents, carers and close relatives like grandparents may go into the courtroom. Friends have to wait outside. There's a public gallery in the courtroom but it is closed and no one is allowed into it during youth court.

How the courtroom is set out for youth court is shown in our youth court layout map:

Youth court layout (PDF, 32 KB)

Your case will be heard by either a district judge or at least two lay magistrates. Your solicitor, the prosecutor for the crown and the clerk to the court who manages the business of the court are also present. There will also be staff from the youth offending service and a court usher.

You will sit next to your solicitor in the middle of the room.  If you need a translator they will sit next to you to translate during the proceedings.  If you do not need a translator but your family does they will sit behind you with your family.

When going in to the courtroom you will be shown to a seat and told to sit or stand. You will be asked your name and date of birth and enter a plea: guilty or not guilty. Your solicitor may ask you additional questions. The magistrate may ask your parents what they have done to stop you from offending.

Try to sit smartly in the court room and if you speak be polite and respectful. If you do not understand anything which is being said, put your hand up and ask for it to be explained.


We have a range of programmes available aimed to steer young people away from offending behaviour. Which interventions used for young people are tailor made dependant on their identified needs following assessment. In addition to in-house programmes, we also has a variety of external agencies at our disposal who provide specialised interventions including:

  • substance misuse
  • mental health
  • physical health
  • speech and language
  • performing arts
  • mentor support
  • careers advice
  • sports and recreation

We also have a dedicated Reparation Team who provide various projects within the borough which young people who are subject to court orders can engage in as a means of giving back to their local community for the crime/s they committed. These projects include:

  • growing fruit and veg at an allotment
  • painting & decorating refurbishments of local community buildings

Young people can also gain credits towards Open College Network (OCN) qualifications.

Criminal Behaviour Orders are given when a young person has persistently engaged in antisocial behaviour and has committed criminal acts. The Court can impose whatever measures it feels are needed to stop the person from committing further antisocial behaviour, such as stopping them from entering an area or associating with other named people. They last at least one year and breaching them is a criminal offence which can be punished by custody.

Support for parents

There are many reasons why a parent may at times find they are struggling with the behaviour of their children such as:

  • bereavement
  • mental health issues
  • isolation
  • English as a second language
  • strains and stresses of life

We at the YOS are here to support you through those challenging times when you may need us the most. Staff are skilled and experienced in working with parents.

The parenting support is based within the Youth Offending Service and work with parents of children who come into contact with our service through offending behaviour.  Our approach is individual, non-judgemental, Compassionate, and confidential.  We can work with you in your home, or in confidence at a location of your choice. We believe that a child who is raised in a stable family environment becomes a positive adult and to get them there, we give you, the parent, the skills, confidence and strength to get to that point.

Our Aim:

Parenting interventions are designed to provide additional support to parents by:

    • Improving their relationship with their children
    • Reduce negative factors
    • Strengthen protective factors such as positive and consistent discipline and constructive supervision
    • Build self-confidence and awareness
    • Prevent children from becoming involved in the Youth Justice System and to lead productive and successful lives.

Statutory Parenting Order:

In all cases involving children under 16, the court is legally required to consider imposing a Parenting Order, however, at times, this is not the most effective way of supporting a parent especially when the parent may suffer with mental health, substance misuse issues, or is already engaging with the Youth Offending Parenting Service on a voluntary basis.

Whether a Parenting Order is issued by the Court and considered appropriate is dependent on whether they believe that the parenting style is a contributing factor to the child’s offending and it is necessary for the engagement with support to address this. A parent does not have to be in court for this to be issued.

The Parenting Order can last up to 12 months and is managed by the Youth Offending Service.

Where a parent does not comply with a Parenting Order, warning letters will be issued by the Youth Offending Service Police and you could be returned to court for non-compliance. The maximum fine for breach of the order is £1000.00.

Voluntary Parenting:

In most cases, parents welcome the support of the YOS Parenting Service and engage with the intervention on a voluntary basis.  They recognise their child is at risk of offending behaviour and want to do what they can to help.  Before a Parenting Order is considered, each parent will be given the opportunity to engage with the YOS Parenting Service on a voluntary basis.

Groups we run:

    • What is the YOS?
    • What would you change?
    • Gangs & Exploitation
    • Who’s in charge
    • Weapons awareness
    • Why is my child stealing?
    • Social media and online awareness?

Out of court disposals 

Out of Court Disposals allows the police and Youth Offending Service to deal quickly with low-level offences without a need for a young person to go to court.  Out of Court Disposals enables reparation for the victim to the offence and the opportunity for the young person to address the causes to their offending behaviour by diverting them to other services.  Out of Court Disposals are not intended for serious offending matters.


  • Any young person not committing a serious offence and between the ages of 10- 17 years who makes an admission to an offence can be considered for an Out of Court Disposal.
  • All young people will be required to go through an assessment with the Youth Offending Service prior to receiving an Out of Court Disposal.

Triage/Community Resolution:

This is a non-statutory order, therefore, does not form as part of a criminal record, however, can be disclosed in an enhance DBS check depending on the nature of the offence.  A young person will need to admit to the offence, have no relevant offending history, and consent to accepting the triage.  This can proceed without victim consent. Young people will be expected to engage with the Youth Offending Service, whereby, a plan of activities will be put in place for the young person and their family where required.

Youth Caution:

Forms part of the young person’s criminal record and can be disclosed to employers in some circumstances. Young person is referred to the Youth Offending Service for assessment and intervention.  This Out of Court Disposal is immediately ‘spent’ on completion of the engagement with the Youth Offending Service.

Youth Conditional Caution:

This is a statutory disposal and young person must comply with the conditions of this disposal.  Youth Conditional Cautions have conditions attached for the young person to engage with the Youth Offending Service in order to address their offending behaviour. Failure to work with the Youth Offending Service can  see the young person before the courts for the original offence.

Section 10:

It is important to avoid criminalising young person unnecessarily and given the opportunity to learn from their mistakes. Sometimes a young person may enter a plea of guilt on the day of the court hearing for first offence.  If this is a low-level offence, the courts will consider an assessment by the Youth Offending Service is completed before sentencing is carried out as to the suitability of the young person to receive an Out of Court Disposal. Section 10 is proof of formal admission in criminal trials. It must be made in writing and relate to facts only.  The Court will adjourn the case, a young person signs the Section 10 document in the presence of an adult admitting the offence, the case is then sent to the Youth Offending Service in the area of which the young person lives and a practitioner from the Youth Offending Service will assess the young person, parent/carer and feed this information back to the court.  There is no need for the young person to appear before the court again if the Out of Court Disposal is granted.

Victim support

The Victim Liaison Officer will:

  • contact the (you) victim to offer support and allow (you) the victim to share (your) their views and be involved in the youth justice system
  • check if you have any immediate concerns about the offender's behaviour towards you
  • explain what happens to the information you give them
  • explain what the offender's sentence means and how decisions are made about how long the offender is subject to a sentence or stays in prison
  • ask if you would like to be kept informed of key developments during the offender's sentence
  • provide information about other services you may find useful in the local area

Restorative justice can give the victim a voice and help them to move forward with their lives.

What does restorative justice involve?

  • if appropriate, a meeting will be arranged with the offender so that he or she may apologise in person
  • an opportunity to be involved in a panel meeting where the offender meets with the panel to discuss and sign a contract of work to be completed on their order
  • mediation between the victim and offender either face to face or through the victim coordinator
  • a letter of apology to the victim or an explanation from  the young person
  • a Family Group Conference where members of both the offender's and the victim's family attend a meeting to discuss the impact of the crime and support the offender in taking responsibility for their actions
  • a statement via email/telephone highlighting the impact of the offence

Restorative justice can help to repair the harm that the young person has caused to the (you) victim. It holds young people to account for what they have done and helps them to take responsibility and make amends.

Please note: Your involvement with this service is entirely voluntary, and you may change your mind about having contact with the victim liaison officer at any point during the offender's sentencing.

The Adolescent Team

We're a team of social workers who sit alongside colleagues in the Youth Offending Service. The team works with young people who are at risk of harm from outside of their families that is associated with their peers, the places where they spend time, or online activity and is identified as being exploitative.

We work intensively with young people and their families to strengthen relationships and to help them to understand and move away from exploitative situations.

Most, but not all of the young people that the team works with are also open to and working with Youth Offending practitioners. When a young person is open to the Adolescent team and the Youth Offending Service, the two teams work very closely together to ensure that young people get the right help at the right time. This can involve referring the young person and/ or their family to other, services who can provide additional, specialist support.

The range of specialist services that the Adolescent team can refer young people and their families to is broad and includes:

  • substance misuse services
  • mental health services
  • services that work with young people being exploited by gangs and organised drug networks
  • advocacy services

Youth at Risk Matrix 

This matrix was developed in order to identify young people at risk of becoming involved in serious offences, intervene early and offer support such as:

  • education and training for parents and professionals 
  • working with partner agencies to refer young people to our services
  • running sessions at schools on topics such as crime, violence and prevention

Risks that could lead to a young person being referred to us include:

  • possession of substances or weapons
  • robbery
  • missing from home
  • subject to abuse, neglect or domestic violence
  • older sibling involvement in criminal activity 
  • decrease in attainment or engagement at school
  • increase in school exclusions 
  • associating with gang members
  • being arrested
  • a victim of stabbing 

Stop and search

Young people may be stopped and searched by the police. Being stopped does not mean you are under arrest or have done anything wrong. The police often stop and search people in areas where crime has been reported.

A stop

A stop is when a police officer or police community support officer stops you in a public place and asks you to account for yourself and may ask you the following questions:

  • “What are you doing?”
  • “Where have you been?”
  • “Where are you going?”
  • “What are you carrying?”

A stop and search

A stop and search is when a police officer stops and then searches you, your clothes and anything you are carrying. Whether you have been subject to stop and search or not, it is important to know your rights. The Metropolitan Police provides clear guidance on stop and search.

If you are arrested

If the police suspect you have been involved in a crime and you are arrested it is important that you are aware of your rights. The government provides a guide to your rights when being arrested.

Court orders

If a young person’s offence is serious enough that they need to attend court, if they do not admit an offence or if they breach their pre-court conditions and are sent to court, they will receive one or more of the following orders, if found guilty.

Referral Orders are most often used by the courts when dealing with 10-17 year olds, particularly for first time offenders who enter a plea of guilty on their first offence.  It is a community based order in which the court refers the child to a youth offender panel, which is led by volunteer members of the community and held at an informal venue. 

The panel along with the child, parent/carer and victim (where applicable) will agree a contract of work aimed at repairing the harm that has been caused and addressing the causes of the offending behaviour. The child is expected to comply with the order or could be returned to court for non compliance.

Victims have the opportunity if they wish, to say how they have been affected by the offence, they may also ask questions and seek reassurance that they will not be targeted again by the child and receive an explanation and/or an apology.

A young person will be expected to:

  • complete an assessment with the Youth Offending Service
  • attend Youth Offender Panels with a parent/carer
  • sign and agree a contract with panel members
  • attend and engage with appointments set by the Youth Offending Service to complete the points agreed in the contract
  • engage with all services provided

A Detention and Training Order (DTO) is a custodial sentence which ranges from 4-months (minimum) to 24-months (maximum) whereby the sentenced young person will serve the first half of the DTO detained in either a young offender’s institution (YOI) for those aged 15 years and over, or a secure training centre (STC) for those under 15 years or assessed as vulnerable. The second half of a DTO is served in the community subject to licence conditions which are monitored by the YOS which can include attending scheduled appointments, an electronic curfew or even exclusion zones in some cases. Failure to engage with licence conditions can result in either a financial penalty or recall to custody.

Whilst detained, regular review meetings take place. At the first review, a plan of what interventions will be put in place whilst detained will be set including checks on the young person’s health and welfare. From there on, quarterly review meetings will take place to check on progression made through the set plan in addition to health and welfare feedback. Prior to the release date, the YOS will draft the licence conditions which will be explained to the young person and parent/carer at the final review. An official copy of the licence will also be provided to the young person upon release.

YOS case managers and parent/carers will be invited to all review meetings which take place at the custodial estate. Those who work with the young person within the prison will also be invited to review meetings to provide face to face feedback in most cases. For those who cannot attend for any reason, will provide a written report to be fed back.

Once released back into the community, the young person will be required to comply with all aspects of their licence conditions. A plan of the work they will continue to do with the YOS will also be set and agreed.

When you finish your DTO your conviction will not be spent (spent convictions don’t affect you when you apply for most jobs in the future). You can ask your YOS worker what this means and when it does become spent.

A CBO (formerly known as ASBO) aims to prevent more serious offending for those who come to the attention of the Police for engaging in anti-social behaviour or criminal activity.

CBO’s are designed to be preventative, not punitive. So young people placed on CBO’s will not be convicted or have the CBO on their criminal record. However, failure to comply with a CBO is a criminal offence which provides the court the power to impose all sentencing options on conviction, including a custodial sentence.

The aim of a CBO is to support young people with addressing their anti-social/criminal behaviours using requirements to address the underlying causes of negative behaviour. Examples of requirements include exclusions from certain areas/locations of concern to non-association with people they are likely to get into trouble with.

The court can only issue a CBO in addition to any other sentence or conditional discharge disposed. However, before any application for a CBO can be made at court, the imposing police or local authority ‘must’ seek the views and approval of the YOS. This consultation is an important part of the process as the YOS have the responsibility to consider if any proposed prohibitions conflicts with YOS, work or education commitments. This process in essence prevents young people from having unrealistic conditions added to their CBO, or unnecessarily having to return to court to amend the CBO.

Applications can be made to the sentencing court at any time to vary or discharge the order. This flexibility allows for those monitoring the CBO to alter terms to suit developing new circumstances in the young person’s life.

Youth Rehabilitation Orders are given to young people that have been convicted of an offence in court. If you receive a YRO, you will have to spend time at the Youth Offending Service (YOS) and with partnership agencies doing agreed work approved by the Court.  The intention of a YRO is to help young people and their families with the problems they may be facing that contributed to them getting into trouble.  Wherever possible, the YOS will offer support and guidance and even for the most serious offences and most problematic behaviour. We'll try to offer the Court alternatives to placing children in secure children's homes, secure training centres or Young Offenders Institutes.

We'll support you to:

  • Stay out of trouble: to make sure that through our work together you learn from you mistakes and don’t repeat them.  Through our offending behaviour work and with our partnerships such as Sparks 2 Life mentoring, The Kinsella Trust and Box Up Crime we work together so that young people’s behaviours are addressed and challenged and improved.
  • Not hurt others: so that your behaviour improves, and you contribute positively to society and become a valued member of your community.  We work directly with CAMHS, Subwize Community and Gangs Police.
  • Keep safe: we know that for some young people and their families their own behaviour can sometimes hide the fact that they are not free from harm.  Our partnership working is designed to help everyone that comes to us and to improve their own wellbeing. 
  • Repair harm: we believe all young people are sorry for their behaviour but that is sometimes the mistakes they make are the hardest thing for young people to admit to.  Through our reparation projects and restorative approaches (through direct and non-direct victim work) to benefit victims of crime, we help our young people to effectively say sorry and begin to make amendments for their behaviour.
  • Reach your potential: we believe that all children are entitled to the very best chances of achieving success and happiness and everything in our power will be done to ensure this even for those who are most in trouble. Education, Training, Apprenticeships and Employment are the keys to long term success for all.

A Youth Rehabilitation Order with Intensive Supervision and Surveillance (sometimes called a YRO with ISS, or just ISS) is the same as a youth rehabilitation order, but you must also wear an electronic tag and have your location checked twice a day, at any time. You will have a curfew, this means there will be certain times of the day when you must be at home. You must also attend 25 hours of requirements or activities or YOS appointments every week. This includes 15 hours of education, training and/or employment. You must tell your YOS case manager if you are at school or college or in work so that your appointments can be arranged around this.

Next steps

You will receive a letter within a few days telling you and your parent/carer when to attend your first appointment with your YOS case manager. You will be given a case manager and he/she will meet with you, ask you some questions and write a plan telling you what requirements or activities you must do and how often you must attend your YOS appointments.

You will also be visited at home by someone from an agency who will fit the electronic tag to your ankle. You must not tamper with or damage this in any way. The agency will also install a device in your home which will alert them if you leave your home during the curfew hours that you were given. If you do, this you will be taken back to court.

When you finish your YRO with ISS your conviction will not be spent (spent convictions don’t affect you when you apply for most jobs in the future).  You can ask your YOS worker what this means and when it does become spent.

If you engage very well with the YOS and attend all your appointments, your YOS worker may decide to take your order back to court and to ask for it to finish early.