Referral Orders

What is a Referral Order?

A Referral Order has been given to you because you have pleaded guilty to an offence and it is your first or second appearance at court. It can last from 3-12 months. It is a special type of court order because once you have completed it, your conviction is 'spent'. This means when you apply for most jobs or courses, you don't have to declare it. The Youth Offending Service can give you more information about when you would have to declare it, so ask them if you are unsure.

The purpose of the Referral Order is to stop you offending again in future.

What will happen after I leave court today?

In the next few days, you should receive a letter from the Youth Offending Service with two dates on it:


The first date is for you to come in for an assessment. A member of staff from the Youth Offending Service will ask you all about yourself and what happened on the day you got into trouble. They will use this, plus other information from your parents/carers, school, social worker etc to write a report about you.

Initial panel meeting

The second appointment is for your panel meeting. This meeting is a restorative process where you will have the opportunity to read your report and meet with two specially trained volunteers from the community (called volunteer panel members) with your parent/carer. During this meeting you will be given the opportunity to talk about your thoughts and feelings around what happened and how to make amends. You will then be involved in agreeing a contract. The contract will include things that you must do while you have your order. The person harmed by your offence may also be invited.

The panel will aim to:

  • help you not to offend again
  • hear how the person harmed by your offence feels and/or how the local community has been affected
  • help you to put right some of the harm done

The court will have decided who is to attend, and in some cases where you are over 16 they may still order a parent or carer to attend. If your parent or carer fails to attend the panel meeting when the court has ordered them to, they will have to go back to court.

It is very important you attend these and all other appointments at the Youth Offending Service.

What could be in my contract?

The contract is made up of 2 parts:

1. Reparation

This means something you will do to make up for the harm you have caused through your offence. This could be saying 'sorry' to the person harmed, writing a letter of apology or doing something to help them. It could also involve helping the wider community, for example by doing community work or making a poster.

2. Session at the YOS

These are parts of the contract which are there to help you keep out of trouble in future. These could include seeing your Youth Offending Service officer to help you make better decisions, attending school regularly or seeing a drug and alcohol worker.

The contract should be agreed between everyone at the panel and you can help decide what should go in it to make sure you don't offend again.

Your referral order starts on the date you sign your contract, not the date you appeared in court.

What happens after my initial panel meeting?

Afterwards your Youth Offending Service officer will agree appointments with you. These could range from 3 appointments per week to 1 appointment every 2 weeks, depending how much help your assessment suggests you need. This will be explained to you.

What if I don't stick to my referral order?

If any of the following happens:

  • you don't attend any of your panel meetings
  • you don't manage to agree a contract with the panel
  • you refuse to sign the contract or any future versions of the contract
  • you don't complete any of the work in the contract
  • you miss more than 2 appointments without a valid reason
  • you behave unacceptably at the Youth Offending Service offices (further details are in the Youth Offending Service acceptable behaviour contract - your worker will go through this with you when you start your order)

the panel may decide to send you back to court. The court could then take away your referral order and put a more serious order in its place.

What if I do really well on my order?

If you have completed at least half your order and done everything in your contract, your worker can take your case back to court and ask the court to finish early.

We want to help you to move in with your life and put the offence behind you. We hope you will finish your referral order successfully.

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