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Referral order (under 18)

This is part of our information section on understanding your criminal record. Details of other sentences/disposals can be found here.


Who is it issued by and how can I contact them?

A referral order can be issued by the youth (magistrates’) court, the adult magistrates’ court or the Crown Court. You can contact the relevant court directly but it might be better to talk to your Youth Offending Team.

Does it involve guilt?

Yes – it can only be issued when you plead guilty.

Is it recorded on the Police National Computer (PNC)?


Is it classed as a conviction?


How long will it be on my record?

It will remain on the PNC indefinitely and will be referred to in any future criminal proceedings – it is rare for a young person to receive a second referral order so any further charges could result in a more serious sentence.

When does it become spent?

As soon as the order has been discharged i.e. at the end of the referral order period as long as the conditions have been met.

When do I have to declare it?

Referral orders fall under the protection of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act so after it is spent you don’t have to disclose unless it is for an occupation which is an exception to the Act, like working with children.

Is it disclosed on DBS checks?

Yes, it is disclosed on both standard and enhanced checks unless it is eligible for filtering. Once spent, it is not disclosed on a basic check.

What guidance is there on fair process?

  • There is CPS guidance on referral orders
  • Guidance for the courts, Youth Offending Teams and Youth Offender Panels from the Ministry of Justice
  • National Standards for Youth Justice Services includes guidance on all youth justice measures.

Do I have the right to appeal and what is the process?

GOV.UK information on appealing a court decision can be found here.

What are the implications for life in the community?

A referral order means you are required to attend a youth offender panel. The panel, you, your parents/carers and the victim (where appropriate) agree a contract aimed at repairing the harm that has been caused and addressing the causes of the offending behaviours. A referral order lasts 3-12 months and for this time you would need to comply with the terms of the contract, such as regular meetings with your YOT manager, so that the conviction will become spent at the end of the set period.


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  1. Can you please tell me what is in the contract of a referral order? – what sort of terms / maybe community work given or something? is needed to comply with the terms of the contract. What sort of time is taken for the regular meetings with your YOT manager? and what sort of actions are agreed too? Can the victim find out under the freedom of information act? or just by simply wishing to be communicated too and have input here? like bringing one of the orders to a swifter closure through restorative justice.

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Debbie Sadler
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