So your child is in trouble with the law? Here’s what you need to know

Child criminals are often far and few, but it might be just your luck that your child ends up in the Criminal Justice System. So, how can you tackle this unprecedented issue if your child is in trouble with the law? Find out more, here…

Raising children isn’t the easiest job; some people say there’s none harder, which means they are often your pride and joy. With this in mind, the last thing you want for your child is for them to become a criminal. That said, for some parents, their worst nightmares become a reality.

The worst part is, it’s not always within the parents’ control. The easiest way for your child to end up in the criminal justice system is for them to mix with the wrong crowd. Buckling under social pressure when they’re goaded into committing a crime, to seem cool and popular, is a pretty standard story.

As a parent, you can’t be with them 24/7 to manage everything they do outside the house. So, what can you do if crime comes into the picture? Today, we’re going to cover what the purpose of the criminal justice system is, what types of crime children commonly get involved in, such as conspiracy to import a controlled substance, and what to do if your child starts mixing with criminals. All your questions answered…

What is the purpose of the criminal justice system?

The purpose of the Criminal Justice System is to deliver justice for everyone by convicting the guilty and preventing them from offending, in order to protect the innocent. The 3 major components of the criminal justice system are:

  • Law enforcement
  • The Courts
  • Corrections

The role of the police in the criminal justice system is law enforcement namely, getting offenders off the street and making sure they have their day in court. The courts then decide on a conviction for the offender and, if found guilty, the offender is imprisoned for ‘correction’ in the form of rehabilitation.

The rehabilitation side of corrections is incredibly important when it comes to young offenders. This is because, unlike hardened criminals who have more experience with crime and are stuck in a cycle, there’s more chance of saving a 15 to 21-year-old. Especially if this is their first crime, rehabilitation really is the most important stage.

However, despite one of the three goals of the criminal justice system being corrections, prisons receive a lot of flack for taking a passive approach on rehabilitation. In fact, young offenders institutions, established in the late 1980s to rehabilitate 15 to 21 year olds, have been criticised for being no better than conventional prisons in preventing reoffending.

With that in mind, and with other problems with the criminal justice system in the UK that we haven’t mentioned, it’s better to prevent your child from ending up there in the first place.

What types of crime do children get involved in?

So, in the vain of trying to stop your children becoming criminals, what are the common types of crime young offenders get involved in that you need to look out for as a parent? Well, in a report published by the Youth Justice Board and the Ministry of Justice in the UK in 2018, offences committed by first time entrants were as follows:

  1. Motoring offences
  2. Theft
  3. Possession of weapons
  4. Violence against a person
  5. Drug offences
  6. Criminal damage and arson
  7. Robbery
  8. Sexual offences

Those that saw the largest percentage increase compared to 10 years ago were possession of weapons offences, drug offences, and violence against the person offences. So, if you’re on the lookout for the types of crime your child might get involved in, you should:

  • Check to see if they show any evidence of drug use or possession;
  • Check their clothes and bedroom to see if they own a deadly weapon;
  • Make sure they don’t own anything you haven’t bought for them, or they couldn’t reasonably afford themselves;
  • Look for lighters and other fire-starting equipment in their bedroom and pockets;
  • And keep an eye out for any car keys or motorbike keys that can’t reasonably be attributed to your child’s own vehicle.

It’s also important to note that, in 2018, 81 percent of first-time entrants (FTEs) were male. So, there’s less chance you’ll find your daughter committing any of these crimes, unless you have reason to suspect they are budding female criminals.

If you’re worried that your child might be about to commit a crime, there are youth crime prevention programmes run by the council’s local youth offending team. These teams also deal with children that have already been in trouble with the police, which is probably a good time to talk about what to do if your child has already entered the criminal justice system.

So your child is in trouble with the law? What to do if your child ends up in the criminal justice system

If your child is arrested for a criminal offence and they are under 18, the police will tell you right away, as they are not allowed to interview them until you are present. If your child is under 10, they cannot be taken to court, but any child over that age will be treated the same as any young person under 18.

If this is the first time your child has gotten into trouble with the police, they might be able to avoid court. Instead, they will be dealt with by the Police Youth Diversion Scheme or through a Diversionary Conference

If your child is charged by the police, they will either be given bail or be remanded and held in custody to appear at trial in a youth court. If your child pleads guilty, or is convicted of the charge against them, they will be sentenced by the youth court and, if the case is serious enough, be passed on to crown court.

Most of this is out of your hands. All you can do is get the best legal representation and advice possible to make sure that you fight your best fight. It might be a good idea to seek the free advice of The Children’s Law Centre, as they are experts in this particular field.

Whatever the outcome of the case, you’ll probably want to prevent your child from becoming a full-time criminal. According to the Youth Justice Board, 40.9% of children and young people reoffend.

Some of the most notorious criminals in the world started as children, including Al Capone, who got involved in gang violence when he was 14. There is also a long list of famous career criminals who have turned crime in their youth into a profession.

If you want to prevent your children from reoffending, and becoming full-blown criminals, there are a few things you can do…

  • Stage an intervention: successful interventions develop cognitive, behavioural, and interpersonal skills, and take place in a community setting.
  • Keep your child away from bad influences: if there are any friends who helped get your child into crime in the first place, it’s best that they steer clear. If moving schools is the only answer to this, then so be it.
  • Get them interested in another outlet for their aggression: there has been a lot of work getting troubled youths into contact sports, such as boxing and martial arts. Here, they can learn discipline and how to follow stringent rules. This is particularly effective for boys, who may have an inherently aggressive nature due to social conditioning.
  • Foster a good relationship with your child: having a relationship with your child, where you talk openly with them about their issues, is great. A good way to nurture this include trying not to be too judgemental, or you run the risk of having your child hide their criminal activities from you.

Think you might have a child criminal on your hands?

That just about concludes this post on what to do if your child is in trouble with the law. Hopefully you’re now more aware of what the criminal justice system is, what types of crimes your children are likely to commit, and how to prevent them from committing them in the future.

If your child is in trouble with the law, heed the advice of experts and do everything within your power to get them off that track. They will need your full support throughout the process, so try not to get frustrated with them and listen to their problems whenever you can.

If you have any experience dealing with a child being in trouble with the law, I’d love to hear your thoughts and stories in the comment below. Perhaps you have some tips on spotting the signs early on? Or, maybe you have a question to ask the group? Feel free to jump on board, and hopefully all your questions will be answered!

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