Children and Young People in Custody (Part 1): Entry into the youth justice system Contents

2Overview of the current youth justice system

7.The current youth justice system was established by the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. The Act set out to change the way the system works in England and Wales and established a statutory aim:1 “to prevent offending by children and young persons”. The system differs from the adult system, as set out below.

Youth Offending Teams

8.The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 introduced a requirement that local authorities must establish a Youth Offending Team (YOT) comprised of members of the police, social services, probation, health and education. YOTs, to:

9.According to HM Inspectorate of Probation, “Youth Offending Teams supervise 10–18 year olds who have been sentenced by a court, or who have come to the attention of the police because of their offending behaviour but have not been charged - instead, they were dealt with out of court. YOTs also work with young people who have not committed a crime, but are at particular risk of doing so.”2

Youth Courts

10.Youth courts are a type of magistrates’ court for people aged between 10 and 17. They deal with cases such as theft and burglary, anti-social behaviour and drug offences. For serious crimes such as murder or rape, the case starts in the youth court but will be passed to a Crown Court. The youth court can give a range of sentences including community sentences and Detention and Training Orders (carried out in secure centres for young people). The sentencing options available are set out later in this report.


11.When a child or young person is remanded or sentenced to custody, the Youth Custody Service within Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS),3 decides where they should be placed. This will be either at a secure training centre (STC), a secure children’s home (SCH) or, for boys aged 15–18 only, at a young offender institution (YOI).4

12.YOIs and STCs are inspected by HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP), jointly with Ofsted (Estyn in Wales) and the Care Quality Commission (or the Healthcare Inspectorate Wales in Wales). HMIP leads inspections of YOIs. Ofsted leads inspections of STCs. Ofsted regulates and inspects children’s social care services, including SCHs.6

The Youth Justice Board and Youth Custody Service

13.The Youth Justice Board (YJB) is an executive non-departmental public body, sponsored by the Ministry of Justice, responsible for overseeing the youth justice system in England and Wales. Its primary function is to monitor the operation of the system and the provision of services. Its primary responsibilities include (but are not limited to):

14.The Youth Custody Service was established in 2017, as a distinct service within HMPPS.8 Before the youth custody service was created, the Youth Justice Board was responsible for the placement of children into custody and held commissioning responsibility for secure services; delivery rested, as now, with other organisations. The Youth Custody Service is now responsible for placement of children into custody and delivery of secure services (such as secure children’s homes, secure escorts, secure training centres, and young offender institutions).9

1 Crime and Disorder Act 1998, Section 37: Aim of the youth justice system.

2 HM Inspectorate of Probation, The Work of Youth Offending Teams to Protect the Public (October 2017)

3 The Youth Custody Service was created in April 2017, as a distinct service for youth custody within HMPPS. See: HMPPS, Guidance: Youth Custody Service Partnership Bulletin - March 2018, 29 March 2018

5 Ministry of Justice, Prison Service Instructions 2012, Care and Management of Young People, accessed 08 September 2020

6 Youth Custody, Commons Briefing Paper CBP 8557, House of Commons Library, 31 January 2020

7 Youth Justice Board, About us, accessed 08 September 2020

8 HM Prison and Probation Service, Youth Custody Service Partnership Bulletin - March 2018, accessed 08 September 2020

9 HM Prison and Probation Service and Youth Custody Service, The Youth Custody Service Placement Team: Overview of operational procedures (September 2017)

Published: 12 November 2020 Site information    Accessibility statement