What to expect if you need to appear in court

Use this guide to find information and advice to help you understand what to expect if you need to appear in court.

When young people under 18 years old are charged with a criminal offence, they must go to a youth court. This is a specialist court for young people where magistrates, or sometimes a specialist district judge, will hear the case.

If the offences were committed with an adult, the case may first be heard in an adult magistrates’ court, but usually, the case will be sent back to the youth court for sentencing.

Very serious offence can be dealt with by a judge at a Crown Court.

If the offence is denied (a plea of not guilty), a trial will take place.

In magistrates’ and youth courts, all the evidence is listened to by the magistrates or district judge, who will decide if the person is guilty or not. In a Crown Court, a jury will decide.