Minor crimes are often dealt with by giving the offender a community sentence. While these sentences offer a suitable punishment, they concentrate on making sure that the person does not commit more offences.

The range of sentences

Community sentencing describes the number of ways that are used to punish anyone who is found guilty of minor crimes without sending them to prison. The length of the sentence will depend on how serious the crime was.

People under the age of 18 are called young offenders by the police and the courts. There are a range of community sentences that can be handed out. Each one concentrates on making sure that young people do not offend again.

Reprimands and warnings

If you’re under 18 and you’re found guilty of a minor crime, you may receive a reprimand or a warning from the police. This means that a note will be added to your police record.

A magistrate or a judge will consider a number of things before deciding what punishment you’ll receive. These include:

  • whether you’ve been reprimanded or warned before
  • how serious the offence was
  • the number of offences you’ve committed

You’re likely to be contacted by your local Youth Offending Team if you receive a final warning. They’ll help you find out the reasons why you’re offending and come up with an action plan to help you stop doing it again.

Under-18s who have received a reprimand or warning before are likely given a more serious punishment, like a Youth Rehabilitation Order.

Youth rehabilitation orders

Youth Rehabilitation Orders (YROs) were introduced in 2009 and are the standard community sentence used for the majority of young offenders. When a court gives one, it decides which are the most appropriate ‘requirements’ to attach to it, depending on the details of the case.

Requirements that you may be asked to complete include:

  • treatment for mental health and drug misuse
  • supervision
  • curfew
  • unpaid work
  • electronic monitoring
  • repairing any damage that you may have caused

You may get a YRO if:

  • it is your first offence and you plead not guilty
  • it is your second or third offence

Other community sentences

There are a couple of other community sentences that you may receive from a court if you’re between 10 and 17 years old.

Referral orders

If it is your first offence and you plead guilty, you could get a referral order. This means that the court will ask a youth offender panel to decide on a punishment that is designed to stop you offending again. This punishment will take between three and 12 months to complete.

Reparation orders

Under a reparation order, you will repair the harm caused by your original offence. For example, you may have to:

  • repair any damage that you made to the victim’s property
  • remove any graffiti from buildings or facilities that belong to the public
  • take part in mediation with the victim of your offence

The amount of time you will spend completing a reparation order is usually around 24 hours in total. This can be spread over a number of days.

Criminal records

If you receive a final warning or reprimand, a note will be added to your record on the police’s national computer. Neither punishment is a criminal conviction though, so you won’t get a criminal record.

If you come to the end of a youth rehabilitation order without committing any further offences, your conviction will be spent straight away. That means that it will not be included on a basic criminal record check if you’re applying for a job.

If you’re looking for work that will involve working with children, your employer will have to carry out a more in-depth check on your record. An intermediate or enhanced record check will show all criminal convictions and police warnings, including fines and reprimands. However, all employers will still have to decide whether the details of your record are still relevant and they may affect your application for the job.

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