Abstract We examined the prevalence of mental disorders and the recommendations regarding criminal responsibility and treatment in pre-trial mental health evaluations requested by Dutch juvenile courts for youths between the ages of 12 to 17. Youths of native Dutch (n = 2694) and of ethnic minority background (n = 1393) were compared. The prevalence of mental disorders was similar for both groups (76.8% versus 74.4%). Criminal responsibility in native Dutch youth was more often considered ‘diminished’ or ‘strongly diminished’ than in ethnic minority youth. Admission to a juvenile institution was more often recommended for ethnic minority juveniles than for native Dutch juveniles. It remains unclear from our data whether these differences reflect a false stereotype of ethnic minority populations as being more dangerous and threatening.