A scheme introduced by s 37 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 aimed at diverting children and young people from their offending behaviour before they enter the court system. The scheme was designed to do this by: ending repeat cautioning and providing a progressive and effective response to offending behaviour; providing appropriate and effective interventions to prevent reoffending; and ensuring that young people who do reoffend after being warned are dealt with quickly and effectively by the courts.
The final warning scheme introduced a system of reprimands and final warnings for 10 to 17 year old offenders. Depending on the seriousness of the offence, a reprimand is normally given for a first offence and a final warning for a second offence. If a young person who has been given a final warning commits a further offence he must be charged. The only exception is where it is at least two years since the previous warning and the offence is not so serious as to require a charge to be brought, in which case a second final (sic) warning may be given. A final warning goes further than an old style caution. Following a final warning, the police have a statutory duty to refer the young offender to the youth offending team (YOT). The YOT in turn has a statutory duty to carry out an assessment of the young offender and in most cases to provide an intervention programme aimed at preventing reoffending. Compliance with the intervention programme is voluntary. However, if a young person goes to court, the final warning and any failure to participate in an intervention programme may be cited in the same way as previous convictions. Furthermore, if the young offender has received a final warning within the past two years the court can only give a conditional discharge in exceptional circumstances and should give reasons if they do so.