A recent study raised concerns that young offenders are not getting the help and support they need when dealing with the criminal justice system. Our criminal defence solicitors examine the findings of the report, and explain what help is available for young people who are in trouble with the law.

Do you need a solicitor?

If you have been accused of a crime, we urge you to contact us at Ashmans Solicitors. We represent clients across England and Wales, including young offenders. We offer free police station representation and are members of the legal aid scheme.

What does the report say?

The report by Fair Trials, called ‘Young Minds, Big Decisions’, concludes that young people are pressured into pleading guilty to crimes without fully understanding the consequences. The report highlighted six problem areas:

1. Focusing on short-term benefits, rather than long-term consequences

The research suggests that young offenders who plead guilty are motivated by short-term benefits, namely a potential reduction in the charge or the sentence. However, little consideration was given to the long-term consequences of pleading guilty.

2. Unexpected consequences of guilty pleas

Pleading guilty can affect job prospects, immigration and legal status. Having a previous conviction can also work against you, should you re-offend. However, the report says young people are not warned of the potential implications of pleading guilty at the time.

3. Lack of information and advice

The report suggests that young people are not in possession of all the facts when making their plea decision, or the information is provided in a way that they do not understand. This led them to make a decision that they later regretted.

4. Inadequate support and assistance

The researchers involved in this study held the impression that young people do not have the right help and support when dealing with the criminal justice system – particularly from professionals. Instead, they turn to other defendants and prisoners for advice.

5. Insufficient support for health conditions and disabilities

In particular, the report claims that the criminal justice system is failing those with additional communication challenges – perhaps on account of their health conditions, characteristics or disabilities.

6. Transitioning from childhood to adulthood

Some people in the study said that they had dealt with the criminal justice system as both a child and as an adult, but saw no signs that they were treated differently as a young offender.

Issues with the study

The study has been widely reported in the press. However, on closer inspection, it becomes apparent that the findings were based on a very small sample size. This includes:

  • A questionnaire that received only 27 responses; and
  • A focus group involving only 12 young people

Therefore, the findings may not necessarily reflect experiences across the board. Even so, we are always concerned to hear that defendants feel unsupported and under-informed. Those under the age of 18 are much more vulnerable than adults, especially when dealing with challenges such as disability or health issues.

Speak to our solicitors

If you get into trouble with the law, we strongly advise that you contact our criminal defence solicitors. We understand that you might be worried about the cost, but you are entitled to free police station representation. This is free to everyone under the legal aid scheme.

Going forward, you’ll automatically get legal aid if you are:

  • Under 16
  • Under 18 and in full-time education
  • On certain benefits

This means you can get a solicitor to represent you in court and the government will cover all (or some of) the costs.

Related: What is Legal Aid, How Does it Work and Can I Get It?

We also appreciate that solicitors sometimes use legal jargon or explain things in a confusing manner. If you do not understand something, you only have to say. We always try to explain things in plain English, but if there is anything you are unsure of, we are more than happy to explain it again.

As criminal defence lawyers, we are working in your best interests. We are also experts in this area of the law, so are best-placed to provide the information and support you need.

Contact us now

If you have been accused of a criminal offence, contact us now for free legal advice.

Call us on 0333 009 6275. We are available to take your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

You can also email us on enquiries@ashmanssolicitors.com or complete our Free Online Enquiry Form and we’ll be in touch soon.