Whether you're accused or charged for a crime, it's important you're aware of the rights you have

young person looking downbeat

Things to think about if you're accused of a crime

You can talk to your solicitor privately and whatever you say is confidential, covered by ‘legal privilege’. If you think that you didn’t have any choice but to commit the crime then you should let your solicitor know, you might be scared of saying someone has forced you, but you are in control of the information you tell them. If you think you are unsafe if you admit you were forced to do a crime then the Police and your solicitor will make sure you’re safe before you’re released.

Your solicitor can request a National Referral Mechanism (NRM) if you were trafficked, so if someone forced you to go from one place to another and you had little choice. If you have been trafficked the NRM should ensure that you receive the appropriate care.

'I thought it was a choice, but maybe it wasn’t. I shouldn’t end up in jail.'

Your solicitor can explain to the Police that you were being groomed or exploited and you really had no other choice, but to commit the crime you did for other people. The National Crime Referral Agency will decide if you had a choice or not in committing the crime.

Your solicitor might advise you not to answer any of the Police questions, or you can choose not to answer yourself. You have a right to remain silent.

If you’re under 18 then you cannot be interviewed without your appropriate adult or guardian there. You can also choose not to talk to the Police if you aren’t in the right mindset. If you think you are too upset or angry and might say something you regret, then tell your solicitor.

If you have committed a minor crime, speak to your solicitor to understand more about what might happen if the Police issue you with a caution A caution stays on your record and you have to admit to the offence.

What to do if you're charged by police

If you’re charged with a crime then the Police will make a decision as to whether you can be released on bail, released with a curfew in place or a tag or keep you in remand. They will also give you a charge sheet, which outlines the charge.

If you’re released with a curfew or a tag then there will be certain places you cannot go or certain times that you are not allowed out of your house. If you are kept in remand then the Police have usually made a decision that you are a risk of not turning up at court, a risk to yourself or to other people.

In some situations you may be released on bail. If this is the case you will be provided with a bail agreement describing specific conditions that you will need to stick to. Your solicitor can talk through this with you.

You have the right to plead guilty, not guilty or as being under duress – this means that you had no other choice but to carry out the crime. If you plead not guilty or under duress and the judge doesn’t agree then you will get a longer prison sentence. Your solicitor can advise you about what plea to make based on the evidence in the case.

The Police have timescales between charging you and your court date. This will be communicated to you and your lawyer. You might go to one of these courts, depending on your age and the crime you’ve been charged with:

  • Youth Court – if you’re aged 10-17. There will only be one-three judges at a youth court and members of the public aren’t allowed in. You will have a parent or guardian with you.
  • Magistrates Court – if you’re over 18 and you’re charged with a crime that holds a sentence of up to two years. There are no juries at a Magistrates Court, the decision will be taken by a one-three magistrates or a district judge
  • Crown Court – if you’re over 18 and the crime you’re charged with carries a sentence that is longer than two years. The decision will be made by a 12-person jury who will be in court as the evidence is heard.

For more information about your rights

  • Y-stop – an app by young people, for young people
  • Gov.uk - the Government website
  • Just for Kids Law