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Young and in trouble

Written by Paula Charalambous Posted in Youth offending

Young and in trouble

If you have been in trouble with the law then you are not alone as many young people find themselves falling into trouble in their early teens. It is important that you understand the law and where you fit in, so that you can take responsibility for your actions and change your behaviour.

A lot of young people think that as they are under 18 it is their parents/carers who will be punished for something they’ve done wrong. This is not always the case.

When you leave school and are trying to apply for work or an apprenticeship the law states that you have to declare any criminal offence you have.

A lot of young people have been told off or even been given a caution for something they have done. It may be that what you did was not really the end of the world, but you must be careful! Make sure you know your stuff and the damage that it could do to you entering into your adult life.

The age of criminal responsibility in England and Wales is 10 years. This is the age at which children can be held responsible if they commit a crime, and it is one of the lowest in Europe. There is no common age in Europe – it ranges from 7 in Ireland to 18 in Spain. In Scotland it is 8, in France it is 13, in Germany and Italy 14 and in Scandinavian countries, 15.

In 1993, two 11 year old boys were convicted and sent to prison for the murder of two-year old Jamie Bulger.

The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 abolished the legal assumption that a child under 14 did not know the difference between right and wrong. The assumption now is that a child of 10 and over has sufficient understanding and maturity to realise they’ve done wrong.

Young people are more at risk of crimes committed against them than any other part of the population.

Support for young people from personal advisers at TCHC, will try to divert you away from crime, in order to engage you into education, work with training or an apprenticeship.

I have been working with a young girl who is on a one year order for - ABH and Criminal Damage. This was Indirect (she was involved but not the perpetrator), and yet still got into trouble. 

She had applied for several jobs and never got any interviews, she had to do a Declaration of Previous Conviction / Reprimand / Caution / Warning, for each job she applied for.

This had started to impact on her as she felt at the age of 17 her working life was over, what chance did she have? Her confidence was at an all time low and she felt that she was being left behind, while her peers were living their lives!

It is never too late and with the help of others you can achieve and get to the goals you want.

Working closely with this girl, an important factor was to think ahead and we knew that a year after her order was up it would be spent and she would never have to declare it again.

‘Spent’ is a special term which comes from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. This Act lays out how long people who have been in trouble with the Law have to declare their convictions or police record for.

A Referral Order becomes ‘spent’ as soon as the Order has been completed. This means that if you are asked by an employer if you have a criminal record and the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act does apply, you can state that you do not have any convictions.

This made her want to use this year to her advantage and so looking for training was a great alternative to work. Once we found what she wanted to do we attended an interview at college and she was offered a place. She was amazing at achieving this and honest with the tutors and she felt supported by us in taking her to that next level.

She received this when she arrived:

If you are applying for a course that involves a work placement with children or vulnerable adults, you are required to obtain an enhanced Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check. In these circumstances spent convictions are exempt from the Rehabilitation of Offenders act 1974 and must be declared.

This led to another feeling of self-doubt and made her feel an outcast. But because she had a personal adviser who pushed her and could vouch that she was capable of doing this course she was accepted and starts her course this month.

Some of the measures which the Government has brought in are:

Antisocial Behaviour Orders

The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 introduced these Orders and they were expanded by the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003. They can be imposed by either the police or a local council against anyone from age ten upwards whose behaviour is considered antisocial.

This is defined as causing damage to property, doing graffiti or behaving in a way likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to people. The Order restricts where a young person can go, and what they can do, and it is a criminal offence to break the order. Breach of an ASBO will often lead to a custodial sentence.

Final warning system

The final warning system has replaced cautioning. A first offence will bring a reprimand or a final warning, depending on how serious it is. After one reprimand, the next offence will bring a warning or a charge. If a young person receives a final warning, they will be referred to the local Youth Offending Team.

I have been told my record will be wiped clean. Is this true?

No, this is not true. The Police continue to keep a record of your conviction. They need to do this to make sure if you do re-offend the Police and Courts know about whether you have been in trouble before. A conviction will also show up on an enhanced Criminal Records Bureau check, which may be requested by an employer.

So remember to think before you do anything you’re not sure of. You never need to feel you are on your own or that you can not achieve. 

About the Author

Paula Charalambous

Paula Charalambous

Paula Charalambous is a personal adviser for TCHC. She has worked with young people aged 13-18 for over 15 years. She started off as a youth worker helping young people to set up their own youth clubs and supporting them in their communities.

She has worked for over 10 years in Education as lead Pastoral Carer, helping excluded pupils, offenders and young people with behavioural issues achieve.

She is known for her great behaviour management skills, her ability to work with all young people in a non-judgemental way and being dedicated to helping them to achieve their goals.

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