Committing a crime is very serious. It is also sometimes called 'committing an offence'.
Committing a crime can lead to a caution, court case or in some cases a prison sentence.
It's not always easy to know if something is against the law or not.
If you're unsure whether something is against the law it's a good idea to ask an adult you trust for help.
The police can stop and search you if they see you and think you might be carrying a weapon or illegal drugs. If the police suspect you of committing a crime and you are over the age of 10 (or 12 in Scotland), they can arrest you. This means you will be taken to a police station and the police will ask you questions about what happened.
Once you've been questioned the police can let you go with a verbal warning, give you a caution, or arrange for you to be charged with a crime
What happens if I am stopped and searched by the police?
There are a few types of sentences. If you're discharged, this means the court decided not to punish you. There are also fines, referral orders and prison sentences.
It's impossible to predict what will happen if you own up to the police about a crime or they find out. Every court case is different and we can't tell you exactly what would happen in your situation. Prison sentences are usually only given to people who commit serious crimes or who keep committing crimes again and again.
- A fine is when you have to pay the court an amount of money. If you are under 16, your parents or carers have to pay it.
- If you are under 17 and admit to being guilty of a crime in court, you could be given a referral order or a youth rehabilitation order. These are types of community sentence. You carry on living at home, but the police will check up on you and agree a set of rules about where you go, how late you are allowed out and how you behave. You may have to do some unpaid work. You might be asked to meet the people your crime affected and apologise to them.
- You could also be given a curfew, which means you are not allowed out of your home after a certain time in the evening. You might have to wear an electronic tag so the police can track where you are. Electronic tagging is a form of surveillance which uses GPS technology to see where you are. If you don't stick to the rules you can you can be taken back to court and charged again.
- A prison sentence is also known as a custodial sentence or going into custody. In very serious cases, a young person can be locked up, but young people don't go to adult prison. Instead, they are sent to special secure centres for young people. Often these are known as Young Offender Institutions. While you are there, you may have some training and lessons.
Having a criminal record means you have either been convicted of a crime in the past or admitted to committing a crime and been given a caution.
Sometimes when you apply for a place at college or university, or for a job, you will be asked to say whether or not you have a criminal record. Having a criminal record can affect the kind of work you are allowed to do as an adult. Being arrested does not give you a criminal record. You have to be on record as guilty of a crime to have one.
Having a criminal record could affect your future plans. Some countries also don't allow people with criminal records to visit.
If you are a victim of crime, you might find it helpful to read 'The Victim's Code: U18s'. This is a guide for young people who have experienced crime.
In the leaflet you can read about:
- telling the police about a crime
- what support you should get
- going to court
- being a witness
- what can happen after you go to court.
'The Victim's Code: U18s' was put together with the help of different young people, including 153 young people who took part in a Childline survey about being a young victim of crime.
Childline have more information and support available here
Anti-social behaviour covers a wide range of unacceptable activity that causes harm to an individual, to their community or to their environment. This could be an action by someone else that leaves you feeling alarmed, harassed or distressed. It also includes fear of crime or concern for safety, public disorder or public nuisance.
Examples of anti-social behaviour include:
- Nuisance, rowdy or inconsiderate neighbours
- Vandalism, graffiti and fly-posting
- Street drinking
- Environmental damage including littering, dumping of rubbish and abandonment of cars
- Prostitution related activity
- Fireworks misuse
- Inconsiderate or inappropriate use of vehicles
The police, local authorities and other community safety partner agencies, such as Fire & Rescue and social housing landlords, all have a responsibility to deal with anti-social behaviour and to help people who are suffering from it.
If you are experiencing problems with anti-social behaviour, or have any concerns about it, or other community safety issues, you should contact your local council 01302 736000 or call the non-emergency number, 101. In an emergency, call 999. Whenever you are reporting an instance of antisocial behaviour, services need as much information as possible, such as:
- where it is happening
- what is happening
- who is involved
- how often it is happening
- Why you think it may be happening
If you would like to report a crime anonymously you can call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111
Gun and knife crime isn't as common as some people think. But it does happen. And guns and knives can affect everyone, not just people in gangs.
WHAT EXACTLY IS GUN AND KNIFE CRIME?
Gun and knife crime includes stabbing or shooting someone. But it's also illegal to:
- carry a knife
- threaten someone with a knife or gun
- commit a crime with the use of a weapon - like a robbery
- commit a crime by pretending you have a real knife or gun.
WHAT IF I'M INVOLVED IN GUN AND KNIFE CRIME?
It's never too late to get help if you're worried about gun and knife crime, or are involved with it already. You could talk to your teacher, another adult you trust or Childline. Your local youth club or community centre may run projects that are geared towards stopping gun crime, and you could get involved with these.
You can call Childline on 0800 1111 at any time if you're worried about your own safety. Or if you think someone you know is carrying or even using a gun or knife.
You can also call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 if you want to report a crime that has happened. Don't be afraid to be strong and do the right thing.
WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF I GOT CAUGHT?
Some people carry weapons like knives and guns to feel protected, because of peer pressure or to feel powerful. If you have a weapon you might not always plan to use it - whether you use the weapon or not, it is still illegal.
Police have the power to stop and search you if they think you or your friends have a weapon. You could be arrested or go to prison for carrying, buying or selling a weapon.
Situations involving weapons can get out of control very easily and you might not have time to think about your actions. You might feel safe by carrying a weapon, but it's very dangerous.
If you carry a weapon, you are putting your life and your future in danger. To get help and support, you can contact a counsellor in confidence at any time. You could also speak to an adult you trust like a parent, youth worker or other family member.
If you or someone you know is in serious danger, you should dial 999 for urgent help.
If you carry a weapon, you are more likely to:
- be attacked or threatened by other gangs who use weapons
- be arrested by the police
- kill or injure yourself badly with your weapon
- hurt or kill others with your weapon
- hurt innocent people if a fight happens
- be charged with murder through joint enterprise if you're at a place where someone is killed, even if you weren't
HOW CAN I AVOID GUN AND KNIFE CRIME?
You may feel pressure from other people at school. You might want to be in a gang.
You might feel like you have to protect yourself. But carrying a knife is dangerous for you and other people.
It has been proven that if you carry a knife or weapon you are more likely to be targeted by people who want to hurt you, and more likely to be injured or even die because of this.
You shouldn't ever have to feel scared.
If you feel like you're in danger or are worried, you can call Childline on 0800 1111.
If you feel that it's an emergency you can call the police on 999 and they should help you.