The Justice System

Why do children and young people commit crimes? And what happens if you do?
A young man sits in silhouette at the end of a tunnel

The numbers of children and young people committing crimes is going down. In 2018/2019 the number of children who received a caution or sentence fell by 19%.

Teenage years are a time when people take risks. But adults are responsible for a much greater volume of crime. During 2018, just 2% of crimes were committed by people under 18. 

Crucial: Although they are still rare (most violent incidents in the UK don't involve a weapon) the number of crimes involving possession of a knife or offensive weapons has increased in recent years, although numbers remain low. 

Young people can commit crimes (are criminally responsible) from age 10. Committing crimes causes a lot of damage, not just to other people or property. Children who commit crimes cause harm to themselves and their future by:

  • Being in contact with people who commit crimes or hurt other people
  • Getting involved with substance misuse and addiction
  • Exposure to violence, assault and sexual assault
  • Poverty, unemployment, and dropping out of learning or work
  • Mental and physical health problems

In later life children who commit frequent crimes have a much higher risk of poverty, family problems and even early death. So the Youth Justice System works hard to support children to avoid reoffending and move forward to become successful, happy adults.

Crucial: A criminal record can have an impact on the kind of jobs you do in the future. But in many cases employers are required by law not to discriminate against people with a criminal record. Find out more about job-seeking with a criminal record.

Although most young people with special educational needs and vulnerabilities do not commit crimes, they can be more vulnerable to all kinds of risks. This includes being  victimised and committing crimes. Extra support is available for those young people in the justice system with special educational needs . 

Special educational needs and disability: The local offer

This page is suitable for all readers, but also part of the Oxfordshire Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Local Offer which collects together information, services and support for children and young people in Oxfordshire with special educational needs and disabilities and their families.

Why do young people offend?

There are all sorts of reasons why young people commit crimes.

But why do young people offend?

  • Problems at home or with their family
  • Pressure from adults or people their own age
  • Boredom
  • Feeling excluded, angry and unhappy
  • Problems with drugs and alcohol
  • Wanting to make money

People who are involved in the youth justice system tell us that there are other things that make children more likely to commit crimes, like wanting things right away (like money, relationships, excitement or friendships with adults) and not thinking about consequences. 

We also know that young people who are Not in Employment, Education or Training are more likely both to commit crimes and be victims of crime.  

Instant Expert: Some adults try and pressure young people into committing crimes. This is against the law, and an act of abuse.

Oxfordshire Youth Justice and Exploitation Service

Oxfordshire Youth Justice and Exploitation Service works with young people and their families to reduce the risk of offending and exploitation. 

Crucial: Find out more about support for young people affected by crime

Continuing Education

All young people have the right to education until they are 18. This includes young people in custody and those being released. Young people need to stay in learning until they are 18, and they will  be supported to engage with education, employment and training.

This can include 1-1 support, finding suitable courses, help with finding an apprenticeship, access to other services (like support around substance misuse or exploitation) and more.

Instant expert: Find out about the extra support available for people who have barriers to engaging with education, employment and training.  

Special Educational Needs and Disabilities

Where a young person has special educational needs or disability (SEND) then there is more support available to help them engage with education, employment and training.

The Youth Offending Service also work with the receiving school/education or employment placement to provide any risk information.

Instant Expert: Find out more about education and training for children and young people with SEN.

Your local offer belongs to you!

The Local Offer explains support available to children and young people with special educational needs and disability, and to their families. WE hope you found this page helpful. If you would like anything changed, updated or added, please use this online form.

Find out more


Posted by Mandi jones
Posted ago
I need to talk to someone urgently, can you help?

Hello Mandi, first of all, thank you very much for getting in touch.

You can get in touch with Oxfordshire County Council to share any concern about a child by calling call on 0345 050 7666. This will put you in touch with our Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) who you can talk to about your concerns.

You can find out more here - it is fine to report when the concern is about your own child.

Comments on this website are public, so I edited your comment to protect your privacy.  

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