types of community orders for young people

Courts have a range of different sentences they can give offenders aged 10-17. These include:

Discharge – absolute or conditional

Discharges are given for the least serious offences such as very minor thefts. The court may give an absolute discharge, which means it decides not to impose a punishment because the experience of going to court has been punishment enough. However, the offender still gets a criminal record.

A conditional discharge can also be given – this means that if the offender commits another crime, they can be sentenced for the first offence and the new one.


As with adults, the fine should reflect the offence committed and the offender’s ability to pay. For offenders under 16, paying the fine is the responsibility of a parent/guardian and it will be their ability to pay that is taken into account when setting the level of the fine;

Referral Order

A referral order is a sentence at court for children and young people who have plead guilty for a first or minor offence. The offender will be referred from court to a youth offending panel (made up of two volunteers from the community and an advisor from the youth justice service). The panel decide what things should be done as part of the referral order and it can last from 3 months to 12 months.

Youth Rehabilitation Order

This is a community sentence which can include one or more of 18 different requirements that the offender must comply with for up to three years. Some examples of the requirements that can be imposed are a curfew, supervision, unpaid work, electronic monitoring, drug treatment, mental health treatment and education requirements.

More information can be found in the guideline on sentencing children and young people.