Assisting young people aged 16 and 17 in court

A toolkit for local authorities, the judiciary, court staff, police, Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service and service providers.

1. Introduction

Since 2008 there have been very significant developments in the way in which services for children and young people have been delivered in Scotland, and running in parallel with these have been considerable changes in criminal justice policy. Together these changes impact, in particular, around the area where young people start to enter the adult criminal justice system and much work has been done recently to improve the interaction between the youth and adult criminal justice systems.

The purpose of this toolkit is to share the best practice which has emerged, and to assist those who are involved with under 18s who are appearing in court, to develop efficient and effective local approaches to handling these cases. We believe that introducing these measures locally will make a significant contribution to the ongoing body of work which is aimed at reducing the frequency and seriousness of offending and re-offending by young people. This toolkit has been designed for use by decision makers, practitioners and service providers involved with young people going to court.

Appendix 2 summarises the changes in policy and practice which are referred to above, and provides links to the relevant documents.

The key messages are:

  • all justice agencies should use every opportunity to prevent young people entering adult criminal justice system.

However, where prosecution proves necessary:

  • the outcomes for young people are enhanced when those involved work together and when there is effective information sharing and communication;
  • sentences have a greater impact upon young people when imposed in close proximity to the offences, thus cases involving young people should be dealt with without delay;
  • young people should be supported - failure to support young people through the criminal justice process, and failure to address their needs, can lock them into a cycle of reoffending; and
  • courts should be provided with a range of robust alternatives to remand and custodial sentences as it is recognised that short custodial sentences provide limited opportunities for young people to engage in behavioural change or education programmes which can significantly reduce reoffending and a high proportion of young people released from custody will go on to reoffend.


  • 'Court' refers to criminal court
  • 'Young people/person' refers to under 18 year olds being prosecuted.
  • 'Implementation group' refers to a judicially led multi agency group - Appendix 6
  • 'Single plan' is the term used to describe the plan for the young person which would include an assessment of their risk and needs and may be know in adult justice as case management or risk management plan. The lead professional is the term used to describe the lead worker/case manager for that young person - appendix 2
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