Going to Court

What should you do when attending court?

When you go to court for the first time you may not know what to expect and you may be worried about what can happen. It is important that you or your parents or carers find a solicitor before your court appearance. To help you understand what might happen, your solicitor will give you legal advice, discuss your case with you and advise you on what you should do and say.

Make sure your parents and carers check to see if you are entitled to legal aid.

Getting ready for court video

The day of the court appearance

Arrive at 9.30am for a morning appearance or 1.30pm for an afternoon appearance.

Report to the court usher when you arrive, they will normally be holding a clipboard. They will:

  • ask your name,
  • ask who is representing you,
  • tell you where to wait and,
  • tell you which court the case will be heard.

Can friends and relatives go with you?

Only your parents or carers and immediate family (ie grandparents) may go into the courtroom. Friends will need to wait outside.

Who is in the courtroom?

Your case will be heard by either a District Judge or at least two lay Magistrates. Others in the courtroom include:

  • your solicitor,
  • the prosecutor for the Crown,
  • and the Clerk to the court,
  • someone from the Youth Justice Service and
  • a court usher.

When you go into the courtroom

You will be shown to a seat and told to sit or stand before being asked:

  • your name
  • date of birth
  • to enter a plea
  • your solicitor may ask you additional questions.

Do parents or carers get asked anything?

Yes, the judge or magistrate may want to know what they have done to prevent a child or young person from offending.

What happens to parents or carers if their child gets into trouble?

If your child gets in trouble with the police, you can sometimes be held responsible. You could be asked to attend a parenting programme, asked to sign a parenting contract or given a parenting order by a court.

When are convictions spent?

The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 enables criminal convictions to become ‘spent’ or ignored after a ‘rehabilitation period’. After this time, with certain exceptions, an ex-offender is not normally required to mention their conviction when applying for a job, getting insurance or when involved in criminal or civil proceedings.

The Act is more likely to help people with few and/or minor convictions because further convictions usually extend rehabilitation periods. People with many convictions, especially serious convictions, may not benefit from the Act unless the convictions are very old.

The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 introduced a new custodial sentence for young people with different rehabilitation periods. The Nacro guidance on the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 provides a breakdown of the different rehabilitation periods.