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If your child is arrested and charged

If your child gets into trouble with the law and is accused of a crime, you need to be aware of what to expect and where to get advice.

Your rights

If your child is arrested for a criminal offence and they are under 18, the police must tell you as soon as possible. The police should not interview your child until you are present, unless a delay would mean an immediate risk of harm to someone or serious loss of, or damage to, property.

In such cases, the police have to ensure that a suitable independent adult is present to make sure your child is treated fairly.

Your child has the same right to legal advice as an adult.

Court cases against your child

If your child is under 10, they cannot be taken to court and charged with a criminal offence. However, once they are 10 or over, they are treated in the same way as any young person under 18 and will be dealt with by the Youth Justice System.

If it is the first time your child has got into trouble, behaved anti-socially or committed a minor offence, they can be dealt with outside the court system either through the Police Youth Diversion Scheme or through a Diversionary Conference.

If the police charge your child, they will either be given bail and allowed to go home or remanded and made to stay in custody before appearing in a youth court. If your child pleads guilty or is convicted of the charge, they will be sentenced by the youth court. For more serious offences, the youth court may refer the case to the crown court.

Free legal advice helpline

If your child is faced with charges or has to go to court, you should talk to an experienced adviser. The Children's Law Centre offers free advice. Try their Freephone Advice Line: 080 8808 5678

For legal and advice services in your area, call the Northern Ireland Legal Services Commission on 028 9040 8888. Alternatively go to the directory at the NI Legal Services Commission website.

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