The law regarding young people and the law is complex and dynamic. Largely, though, the emphasis is on protection and prevention, rather than punishment.

Age of Responsibility

Children under the age of 8 are not deemed legally culpable and are therefore not subject to legal prosecution. They can be referred to the Children’s Hearings System, but only on non-offence grounds. Over the age of 8, children can be referred to the Children’s Hearings System on offence grounds and, between 12 and 16, can additionally be prosecuted in the courts, although this is very rare. If it does happen, it is usually a result of complications at a Children’s Hearing. Equally rare are ASBOS being issued to children under the age of 16.

Most Likely Scenario

Although there have been increasing calls for a multi-agency approach, the majority of incidents involving children are referred to the Children’s Hearings System. A Children’s Reporter, the first point of contact within the system, will then evaluate a case and decide on the most appropriate action.

If the incident is serious enough, or if the accused child is a persistent offender, the Reporter might decide to refer the child to a Children’s Hearing. While the Children’s Hearings System deals with around 31,500 children per annum, only around 5,500 actually attend a Children’s Hearing. A Children’s Hearing is a meeting between a child, accompanied by a guardian and/or solicitor, the Children’s Reporter and a three-person Children’s Panel. Panel members are drawn from the community and given training to fulfill this role. The Children’s Panel might decide to discharge the case, meaning no further action is necessary, or, that compulsory supervision is the best thing for a child. This is known as a Supervision Requirement.


Legally, most children over the age of 12 are considered to have enough knowledge to seek legal advice and representation, and young people over the age of 16 are not required to consult a responsible adult. Nevertheless, we mostly deal with young people and their guardians.

Emergency Lawyers can assist in a number of ways, from offering preliminary legal advice, to representing a child in a Children’s Hearing or courtroom. We understand that working with young people and their carers requires dedication, time and sensitivity. With nearly 50 years of practicing law between us, we have the expertise to achieve the best results for you or your ward, while making the experience as stress-free as possible.

If you, or a child in your care, needs our help, our expert lawyers are available 24/7 to discuss your case via phone or email.

Call 0141 226 8825 or Enquire Online