The Police and You

The Police and You

The Police and You


The police are there to keep all of us safe. Their job is to prevent and investigate crime. There are lots of different kinds of crime. There are some things that you might not even realise are against the law. For example, littering and being really noisy in a place where it upsets other people are both types of anti-social behaviour.  

Committing a crime is serious. Once you’ve done it you can’t go back and change it. If you get caught you could be given a caution or you might have to go to court. In serious cases you could be sent to prison.

In the UK the age of criminal responsibility is 10. That means anyone over the age of 10 can be arrested and taken to court if they have committed a crime. If you are under 18 when you commit the crime then you will go through the youth courts.

This means the sentences are different to those given to adults. It also means that if you are sent to prison that it will be a special youth centre.  

It can also be scary if you witness a crime. You may not know what to do. Or you could be scared about telling someone what you’ve seen. It can be hard to know what to do if you know the person committing the crime. Even if you don’t want to get someone into trouble you should still tell an adult what you’ve seen.

Remember that reporting crime is the right thing to do. Although the crime might not have affected you it could have impacted someone else. For many victims of crime getting justice is important.

If you are the victim of a crime then you need to tell someone what’s happened. The idea of going to the police might seem scary. You may worry that they won’t believe you or that it will be your word against the person who committed the crime.

You should always talk to someone about how you’re feeling. Even if you don’t think there’s anything the police can do, they may be able to find a way to help you.

If you’re nervous about talking to the police about what’s happened to you then tell a trusted adult first. Your parents, an older sibling or a teacher can support you. They can help you talk to the police to explain what’s happened.

How do I report a crime?

There are several ways for you to report a crime. If the crime is happening right now and it’s an emergency then you should call 999 and ask for the police.

If it’s not an emergency or the crime has already happened then you should call the police non-emergency number 101. If you would rather talk to someone in person you can go to your local police station. When you go in ask the person at the reception if you can speak to a police officer in private.

You can always ask a friend or an adult you trust to go with you if you’re nervous about speaking to the police.

I’m scared I’ll get hurt if I report a crime. Should I stay quiet?

If you know the person or people who have committed the crime then coming forward can be scary. If you’re worried that they might threaten or hurt you after you’ve reported what happened you should tell the police.

They will be able to provide you with support and make sure that you are safe. If you want to report a crime but stay anonymous then you can use the Crimestoppers Fearless[] service. This allows you to report crime online without having to leave any personal details.

I committed a crime and now I regret it. What can I do?

Sometimes we can get caught up in things we aren’t happy with. It can be hard to get out of a situation when you’re in the middle of it especially if you’re with a group of friends. It’s never ok for your friends to put pressure on you to commit a crime.

But if you have been involved in a crime and feel guilty then you should talk to someone. You may be too scared to go to the police but you should talk to someone you trust. It might be an adult, or it could be a helpline like Childline.

You could try to make amends for what you did. For instance, if you stole something from someone you could give it back to them and apologise. If you are involved in a crime, even as a lookout, then you can still get into a lot of trouble. It’s best to own up if you can.

What is anti-social behaviour?

Cigarette smoke stays in the air and when you spend time around people who smoke you’ll inhale some of this smoke. This is called passive smoking or secondhand smoke. Although passive smoking isn’t as bad for you as smoking it does still have health effects.

If you spend a lot of time around people smoking you will have a higher risk of developing lung cancer, as well as throat cancer. You will also have a higher risk of heart disease, strokes and other lung diseases.

The impact of passive smoking is why it is illegal to smoke in workplaces and inside public buildings. It is also why it’s illegal to smoke in a car with children. If you can avoid spending time around people while they are smoking then you should as this will be better for your health.

Anti-social behaviour (also called ASB) is when a person or group of people behave in way that scares or intimidates other people in public places. It can involve things like:

Being rude or abusive

Being very noisy in places where it will upset other people

Setting off fireworks in the street

Drinking alcohol or taking drugs in a public place

Bullying or threatening someone.

Although you might not feel like what you’re doing is hurting anyone, it can have a negative impact on your community. The police can do various things to deal with antisocial behaviour.

If you are breaking the law with your anti-social behaviour then you could be arrested and charged with a crime.

If you repeatedly commit the same kind of antisocial behaviour the police can issue an anti-social behaviour order – ASBO. This is a court order that’s designed to stop you behaving like that. It might prevent you from being in a certain place. Or it could stop you going near a particular person.

If you break the conditions of your ASBO you could be arrested and the police will take further action against you.

I’ve experienced anti-social behaviour but I think it’s too small to report. Is there anything I can do?

Even if you think that what you’ve experienced is a small incident you should still report it. Often ASB doesn’t just affect one person. It can affect a whole community and you don’t know what ASB other people will have reported.

The more examples of ASB the police can get, the stronger their case will be. It’s normal to feel scared or unsure about reporting ASB. If you aren’t sure how to report what you’ve seen or experienced talk to an adult you trust. They can help you feel safe and give you advice on what to do next.

What happens if you’re arrested?

The police can arrest you if they suspect that you have committed a crime. This means you will be taken to a police station and questioned. If the police have enough evidence they can charge you with a crime.

If you are under 17 then the police will make sure your parent or legal guardian comes to the police station to support you. If the police want to interview you then a guardian or another appropriate adult will need to be with you.

The police are only allowed to hold you for 24 hours without charging you with a crime. If you are suspected of a very serious crime you can be held for 36 hours and this can be extended to 96 hours by a court.

If the police charge you with a crime then they will explain what happens next. It will involve going to court.

In some cases the police can decide not to charge you and to deal with your offence in a different way. For a minor offence they might decide to use an out of court disposal. This is designed to keep young people out of the criminal justice system and support them to reduce the risk of reoffending.

You could receive a reprimand if this is your first offence. You may also be given a final warning if this is not the first time you have been charged.

Will I go to prison if I commit a crime?

You will only go to prison if you commit a serious crime or if you have committed crime many times. The youth justice system does its best to keep young people out of prisons and find other ways of supporting them to change their behaviour.

If your case goes to court you could be ordered to pay a fine. If you are under 16 then your parents or carers will have to pay that money for you.

You might also get a youth rehabilitation or referral order if you are under 17 and admit to committing a crime in court. This means you will go back home but there will be a set of rules you have to follow.

Often this will involve a curfew to make sure you are home by a certain time. It might also affect where you are allowed to go and who you are allowed to see. In some cases you will also have to do some community work. You might also have to meet the victim of your crime and apologise to them.

If you break the conditions of your order then you can be taken back to court and charged again.

What does having a criminal record mean?

You will have a criminal record if you are convicted of a crime or if you receive a caution. A caution can be given to you by the police if you admit to committing a less serious crime. This is instead of being arrested and charged. Although it is not as serious as being charged with a crime, it is still kept on your criminal record.

Having a criminal record can affect what you are able to do in the future. You will usually have to say whether you have a criminal record when you apply for jobs. You may also be asked this if you apply to go to university.

You might not be able to get certain jobs if you have a criminal record. There are also some countries in the world that you won’t be allowed to visit if you have a criminal record.

Did you know?

-12% of children aged 10-15 are estimated to be victims of crime

-There were 981 children in custody in 2015

-Children aged 10-17 made up 10% of all arrests in England and Wales in 2014/15


Help & Support

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