Court sentences

There are a number of different punishments you could receive if you've been charged with committing an offence. looks at the types of custodial and community sentences you could end up serving.

inside prison

Custody is the worst case scenario

Custodial sentences

The emphasis on custodial sentences is to make sure you’re given training, education and rehabilitation, rather than just spending time behind bars. If sentenced to custody, you could be sent to:

  • Secure children’s homes: These are run by local authorities and are for young offenders aged 10 to 14. They also take in those who were in care, and young people with mental health problems.
  • Secure Training Centres: These are purpose-built centres for young offenders up to the age of 17. They normally provide education and vocational training as well as focusing on addressing your behaviour;
  • Young Offender Institutions (YOIs): These are for young offenders aged 15 to 21 and are run by the Prison Service. You could receive up to 25-hours of education every week, including courses and programmes to improve your behaviour.

Detention and Training Order (DTO)

This may be given to you if you’re aged 12 to 17 and have a history of offending. It involves a custodial sentence of between four months and two years. The first half of the sentence is completed in custody and the second half in the community under the supervision of a Youth Offending Team (YOT). The court can only give you a DTO if the crime is also punishable with imprisonment for a person over the age of 21. The court also has to decide if the sentence reflects the seriousness of the offence.

Section 90/91

This is a custodial sentence and can only be given in the Crown Court. This could be given if you are convicted of an offence where an adult committing the same crime could receive at least 14 years in custody. Section 90/91 means you can be sentenced up to the maximum time the adult can get for the same offence, which for certain offences, may be for life.

Community sentences

  • Fine: The amount will normally reflect the offence committed and your circumstances;
  • Reparation Order: This order is designed to get you to understand the consequences of your crime. It could involve getting the victim and offender together, if both sides agree, or by undertaking community work;
  • Referral Orders: You could be given this order if you plead guilty and its your first offence. You’ll be referred to a Youth Offender Panel which considers the best course of action, lasting from three to 12 months. Once completed, the offence won’t have to be disclosed when applying for work;
  • Youth Rehabilitation Orders: This order spells out what you can and can’t do for up to three years. The order will reflect the crime you committed and may include a curfew, staying away from certain places, random drugs testing or drug addiction treatment. If you break your order you could go into custody.


If you’ve been found guilty, the court can make an order to discharge you if it decides that punishment is not appropriate. There are two types of discharge:

  • Absolute Discharge: If you admit you’re guilty or are found guilty of an offence, no further action will be taken and you’ll be given an absolute discharge;
  • Conditional Discharge: This is when no immediate punishment is given. Instead, a period up to three years is set, and as long as you don’t commit any more offences, there will be no punishment. If you do offend in that time, you can be brought back to court and re-sentenced.

Photo of custody by Shutterstock

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Updated on 29-Sep-2015