Advice on going to court with your child

Estimated read: 6 minutes 

If you are going to Court for the first time, you may not know what to expect. It can be a daunting place, especially when you are worried about what is going to happen to your child.

Key points: 

  • Magistrates serving in a Youth Court will have had specific training to enable them to deal with young people effectively
  • To help you and your child prepare for Court it is important to find a solicitor. The solicitor will meet with you and your child to discuss the case and will offer you legal advice
  • If you or your child cannot attend the Court on any occasion it is very important that you inform the Court of the reason why. You can do this through your solicitor before the hearing
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A young defendant aged between 10 and 17 will be dealt with in the youth courts. Young defendants that are aged between 10 and 13 are classified as children. Young people aged between 14 and 17 are termed as young persons or a  juvenile. 

Understanding Youth Courts

Youth Courts are part of the Magistrates Courts and are used to hear cases of those who aged 11-18 years old. Magistrates serving in a Youth Court will have had specific training to enable them to deal with young people effectively. Youth Courts are presented differently to adult courts as they are more informal and smaller. Only the child’s parent or guardian will be allowed in the court to accompany the child. If the child or young person is under the age.

What will a solicitor do for my child?

To help you and your child prepare for Court it is important to find a solicitor. The solicitor will meet with you and your child to discuss the case and will offer you legal advice. They will let your child know what to do and say in Court. It is important to contact a solicitor before your first Court appearance.  Check with them whether you are entitled to legal aid.

What happens on the day of the court appearance?

You will be expected to arrive at 9.45am for a morning appearance or at 1.45pm for an afternoon appearance. It is important to check the time with your solicitor and allow for plenty of time to travel to Court. You will not be given a specific time for when your case will be heard. 

You will need to report to the Court Usher.  They are usually dressed in a black gown and will be carrying a clipboard. They will tell you which Courtroom your child’s case will be heard in and where to wait. They will also ask your name and which solicitor is representing your child.

Can I take a friend or relative with me?

Yes, you can bring along a friend or relative to support you in the waiting room. But only parents or close relatives like grandparents, who may be involved in caring for your child, can go into the Courtroom with you.

Who will be in the courtroom?

In the Courtroom, there will be at least two magistrates, your solicitor, a Crown Prosecutor and the Clerk to the Court who will ask your name.  There will also be someone from the Youth Offending Team.

What happens when we go into the Courtroom?

You’ll be shown where to sit (usually in front of the dock) and it will be announced when you need to sit or stand. Your child will stand in the dock and will be asked to say their name, address and date of birth.

Will the Magistrates speak to me?

The Clerk of the Court may welcome you in order to identify you as the parents. You can speak to your solicitor about this further if you are feeling concerned about this. 

What will the Magistrates ask me?

Very occasionally Magistrates may ask you something. Most of the time information will be given to the Court by your solicitor. It is important to give him or her as much useful information as possible before you go into the Courtroom. The magistrate will want to know what you have tried to do to prevent your child from offending and where you have gone to try to get help with your child. There is a private room available where you and your child can talk to your solicitor before going in to the Courtroom.

What might happen to my child?

The court may adjourn the case for a variety of reasons.  They may wish to set a trial date, or request reports to be prepared. If a report is requested a member of the Youth Offending Team will talk to you outside the Courtroom and explain what it is about. It may be that you will need to return to the Court with your child a few times before the case is dealt with.

If you or your child cannot attend the Court on any occasion it is very important that you inform the Court of the reason why. You can do this through your solicitor before the hearing.  If you are ill on the day and don’t appear in Court, you may have to produce a sick note.

Will the Magistrate ask me to do anything?

The magistrate may issue you with a Parenting Order.  For more information about Parenting Orders, please read our advice page

Further resources 

You can speak to your local Youth Offending Team or Children’s Services at your Local Authority.  If you have a solicitor, they can give you advice. You can also speak to Prisoners Families Helpline on 0808 808 2003. Please read this advice article from Lawstuff on Police and the Law.   

It may help to chat to other parents on our forums to find out how they are dealing with this issue within their family life. You can also talk to us online via our live chat service, email us at askus@familylives.org.uk or call us on our helpline on 0808 800 2222 to speak to trained family support worker. 

This page was updated on October 2021

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