What to expect if your child has to attend court
16 June 2017
My child has to go to court – what happens next?
At Old Bailey Solicitors we recognise that representing young defendants is a specialism, requiring particular skills and attributes. We also recognise the absolute necessity of representing young people carefully and pro-actively, to get the best possible outcome for them at this important and difficult time in their lives. In this article we want to explain what you can expect from us if your child is facing a court case.
Struggling with the child's behaviour
Many young defendants have additional vulnerabilities, such as learning difficulties or mental health conditions which may not have been diagnosed until now. Often, families will have struggled with their child’s behaviour, and been unable to obtain assistance from education or health services such as CAMHS. This is a situation we are very familiar with, and we understand the pressures you may have been under. This will not of course be every situation, and we approach each case and child as an individual.
Building a rapport - recognising communication needs
The first steps will be for us to speak with you and your child at length, to identify and gain an understanding of what needs we may have to adapt to. It’s also important for us to build a relationship with your child so they feel able to trust us and are comfortable discussing their case with us.
Research shows that six in ten children in the youth justice system have a communication disability. We recognise this and we will ensure that you and your child (our ‘client’), understands what is happening at every stage of their case, using clear and simple language, and in a manner best suited to their communication needs. If necessary we will instruct an Intermediary, who will assess the child and make recommendations. An Intermediary is a “communication specialist who facilitates two-way communication between a vulnerable person and the other participants in the legal process. Intermediaries provide impartial assistance to those with communication difficulties, learning difficulties or mental health problems”. For further information about Intermediaries, click here
Building the case
If appropriate, and with you and your child’s permission, we will speak with other family members, teachers and doctors and the Youth Offending Team, to gather as much information as we can to assist in building your child’s case. This is the case whether your child will be pleading guilty, or not guilty. If there are any concerns, we can apply to the Legal Aid Agency for funding to have your child assessed by a Psychologist, or Psychiatrist, or both. These assessments can provide vital information and are taken very seriously by the courts.
Finally, we will ensure that we instruct the most suitable advocate for your child’s case; an advocate who will combine specialist knowledge of the procedures and provisions in criminal law relating specifically to young people, together with the emotional intelligence and communication skills necessary to gain yours and your child’s trust. We take these things seriously.
Friendly, supporting and non-judgemental advice
In all our dealings with your child we will try our very hardest to be friendly, supportive, non-judgemental, and respectful and listen carefully to what your child has to say. We will provide clear and timely advice on the strength and weaknesses of the prosecution case and identify any defences available, enabling you and your child to take decisions you understand the consequences of and feel comfortable with.
In our next article on this subject we explain the various stages of a court case, whether that’s a guilty plea or trial.