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Children breaking the law

Once a child reaches 10 years old they can legally be charged with committing a crime. They will be subject to the legal process and have a criminal record if found guilty. If your child is facing criminal proceedings you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau.

How to stop it before it starts

  • Talk to your child about right and wrong.
  • Explain in simple terms about how they would feel if someone stole something they valued or if someone committed a crime against a member of their family.
  • Help them to understand the reality of how it would affect your family life and their future success if they get involved in crime.

What to look out for

These signs do not necessarily mean that your child is committing crime but if they are breaking the law you may notice that:

  • their behaviour changes
  • they have new friends you don't know and they don't want you to meet
  • they have expensive items which you didn't buy and you don't think they could afford
  • they have more money than you would expect them to have
  • they look as though they've been in a fight

What you can do if you suspect that your child has committed a crime

  • Talk to your child about your concerns.
  • Ask them about any items they may have or extra cash they can't account for.
  • If you suspect they have stolen something try to find out who the rightful owner is and encourage them to return the property. Offer to go with them to do this.
  • Talk to them about the reason they did what they did and ask them to imagine how they would feel if it happened to them.
  • Contact Surrey Police if you suspect the crime is serious and needs investigation or intervention. This can be a worrying step but involving the police early can often turn a child away from crime. The main aim of the authorities is to guide children away from crime, not to punish them.

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