Ask Sam letter


To Sam

Jail time for being in a gang

do you know how long a person the age of 14 is going to be in jail for gang violence?

Ask Sam


Hi there

Belonging to a gang is not against the law but violence against someone else is a crime. If you commit a crime you might be arrested and if you are found guilty of the crime, there may be a punishment. Once you are at least 10 years old, serious crimes might lead to a longer prison sentence when a case goes to court.

Gangs can just be a group of friends but sometimes being in a gang is more than that and can involve committing crimes, fighting other gangs or having weapons. These kind of gangs are very dangerous and sometimes people are forced into joining.

Gang violence can happen anywhere and the police will usually know where to look for specific gangs. If you carry a weapon like a knife or a gun, even if you never use it or if you think it is only for your own protection, you are breaking the law and can be arrested. Police can search someone if they believe they are carrying a weapon. Police and school staff can also search young people for weapons at school.

Read our advice about gangs and the law.

If you’re arrested you’ll have a solicitor who will represent you and if you’re charged with an offence you may need to go to court. A youth court is a special type of  court for people aged between 10 and 17. A youth court deals with cases like theft and burglary, anti-social behaviour and drugs offences.

People under 18 get different sentences to adults. Find out more about going to court.

Having a criminal record can affect things you do in the future and could mean that you might not be accepted into a college or university, you might find it difficult to get a job and you might not be allowed to travel to some countries.

If you're being pressured into doing violent things or committing crimes by a gang, it’s important to talk to someone about this. We've got advice about asking an adult for help. You can get support from a counsellor at Childline at any time, and we can keep most things confidential, so it’s a safe place to talk.

Thanks for the letter.

Take care,


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