A young offender is a person who is 15–21 years of age at the time of commission of the offence.
When a young offender is found guilty of an offence, for which he or she may be sentenced to imprisonment, a report on his or her personal circumstances shall be acquired, if possible. When imposing a conditional prison sentence, the district court must take a stand on whether the young offender should be placed under supervision.
Offenders under 15 years of age
An offence committed by a person under 15 years of age is not considered by a court and the person is not sentenced to a punishment. A child welfare notification is filed concerning an offender under 15 years of age, and social welfare authorities are responsible for dealing with his or her situation. Even offenders aged under 15 are, however, liable to compensate for damages they have caused.
Offenders aged between 15 and 17
When a person between 15 and 17 years of age is sentenced to a punishment, the punishment is at most three-fourths (3/4) of the punishment that would be imposed on an adult offender. A person under 18 is not usually sentenced to unconditional imprisonment. The punishment may also be completely waived if the court deems that the criminal act was the result of lack of understanding or of imprudence. Criminal matters involving young offenders must be considered urgently.
A juvenile punishment of 4 to 12 months may be imposed for an offence committed by a person under 18 years of age. The purpose of a juvenile punishment is to prevent further crimes and to promote the social rehabilitation of the offender.
Juvenile punishment does not include imprisonment, but the sentenced person is under supervision for the entire duration of the punishment. The juvenile punishment consists of supervised activities and programmes intended to improve the social skills of the sentenced person as well as support and guidance in connection to these. The juvenile punishment also includes monitored unpaid work and orientation to working life and work. The use of intoxicating substances is controlled. The Criminal Sanctions Agency is responsible for the enforcement of the sentence.
If the sentenced person breaches the conditions and regulations of the juvenile punishment or commits new offences, he or she may be sentenced to another punishment, for instance to unconditional imprisonment.
Young offender’s liability for damages
Liability for damages does not depend on whether the offender has been sentenced to a punishment. The offender is liable to compensate for the damage caused through the offence. This also applies to offenders under 15 years of age. The liability for damages may, however, be adjusted, if the circumstances are such that the imposition of full liability on a minor would be unreasonable.