POLICE will give people under the age of 18 up to three reprimands before charging them with a crime in a major revamp of the controversial juvenile cautioning system. Under the changes, the age limit for cautions will rise from 17 and parental consent will be needed before offenders can be admonished. The Fight Crime Committee (FCC) will meet next month to sanction the proposals. Sources say the changes represent the first time the Police Superintendents' Discretion Scheme has been altered in its 31-year history. For the past year, an FCC committee under the chairmanship of Solicitor-General Anthony Duckett has been reviewing the performance of the scheme against a backdrop of increasing juvenile crime, especially drug offences. It is understood the reforms focus on four main points: Lifting the age limit for cautions from 17 to 18; Giving juvenile offenders the chance to be cautioned three times - instead of once - to avoid the stigma of a criminal record; Formalising an inter-departmental referral programme for young people seen as having potential problems; Insisting that parents or guardians agree - and are present - during the cautioning. It will be suggested that multiple cautions be given only with the consent of the Attorney-General's chambers. The Social Welfare Department and the Education Department will be required to be more involved in establishing multi-discipline care and identifying those youths who need behavioural counselling. Under the present scheme, offenders must admit to the crime of which they have been accused and express contrition before being eligible for a caution, which is given by a uniformed superintendent. Police say the programme's expansion is favoured because it is thought that early juvenile involvement with the justice system may contribute to further crime. But Sha Tin District Fight Crime Committee member Justein Wong Chun, a prominent voice on youth issues, expressed concern at the proposals last night. ''It may send the wrong message to young people,'' Mr Wong said. ''And it may even encourage some to commit further criminal activities. ''It is not a good idea to extend the cautioning up to three times. ''The current practice of one caution only is still good practice.'' About 35 per cent of the territory's total reported crime is committed by people aged under 21. In the first half of this year, the number of juveniles under 16 arrested for criminal offences rose 12.9 per cent to 3,833. More than 1,500 juveniles were caught for shop theft, the crime to which most police cautioning applies.