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What is youth offender case

If a person below 16 years old is arrested or summoned to attend court for a crime, they are usually charged in the Youth Courts.

In exceptional cases, a youth offender may be charged in courts other than the Youth Courts if:

  • They are charged with an offence that is only heard by the High Court.
  • They are jointly charged with an adult offender.

Youth offenders' parents or guardians must attend all court hearings with them, unless the court orders otherwise. For youth offenders who do not have a lawyer, their parents or guardians can help to conduct their defence.

The Youth Courts may offer bail for youth offenders so they can stay out of remand during the court process.

How a youth offender case is different

In the Youth Courts, there are special rules to protect youth offenders:

  • Youth offenders are not labelled criminals. The Youth Courts do not use the term "conviction". Youth offenders are "found guilty".
  • Punishments are called "dispositional orders" instead of "sentences".
  • Youth offenders are not exposed to adult criminals, from the point of arrest up to trial.
  • The Youth Courts protect youth offenders from public view. All youth arrest hearings are closed to the public. Only persons authorised by the court can be present. Information related to the hearings that may reveal the youth offender’s identity must not be published.

Youth offence court process

An overview of key steps that occur when a youth is arrested and charged in the Youth Courts:

1. Youth is arrested by the police

If police bail is granted, the youth and parents will appear before the Youth Courts on a given date.

If no police bail is granted, the police will bring the youth to the Youth Courts within 48 hours of the arrest.

2. Youth attends one or more hearings

There are 3 possible outcomes:

  • Youth pleads guilty (admits to the offence).
  • Youth is found guilty through a trial.
  • Youth is found not guilty through a trial. The youth goes free.

Find out what happens at Youth Court hearings.

3. Court decides on the dispositional orders

The court will determine the appropriate orders, called dispositional orders. Before making the decision, the judge may call for a probation suitability report and discuss the case with a probation officer and 2 panel advisers. In certain cases, the judge may call for a case conference before deciding on the orders.

Find out about the types of dispositional orders.

4. Court monitors the youth's progress

The court will monitor the youth offender's progress through review reports by a probation officer from the Ministry of Social and Family Development.

Find out what happens if the youth disobeys a dispositional order.

Need help?

The information here is for general guidance as the courts do not provide legal advice. If you need further help, you may want to get independent legal advice.

Find out more


Legislation associated with this topic includes the Children and Young Persons Act.

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