Youth Crime – sentencing principles – Part 1

Gillian Hayler

Gillian Hayler

Gillian has specialised in criminal defence for the last 14 years and is an Accredited Police Station Representative.  She builds strong and successful criminal defence cases and works closely with Crown Court trial advocates.

Youth Crime - sentencing principles - Part 1

We recently posted an article explaining what to expect if your child is charged with a criminal offence and has to attend the Youth Court.  If you missed it, that article can be found here

We now turn to focus specifically on the issues relating to the sentencing of youths.  This is Part 1.  

Sentencing young people – General principles, an extract from the Sentencing Council’s Guidelines

When sentencing children or young people (those aged under 18 at the date of the finding of guilt) a court must have regard to the principal aim of the youth justice system, which is to prevent offending by children and young people, and the welfare of the child or young person.

A court should also consider the effect the sentence is likely to have on the child or young person (both positive and negative) as well as any underlying factors contributing to the offending behaviour.

A custodial sentence is a measure of last resort and may only be imposed when the offence is so serious that no other sanction is appropriate. The primary purpose of the youth justice system is to encourage children and young people to take responsibility for their own actions and promote re-integration into society rather than to punish.

In having regard to the welfare of the child or young person, a court should ensure that it is alert to:

• any mental health problems or learning difficulties/disabilities;

• any experiences of brain injury or traumatic life experience (including exposure to drug and alcohol abuse) and the developmental impact this may have had;

• any speech and language difficulties

• the vulnerability of children and young people to self-harm, particularly within a custodial environment; and

• the effect on children and young people of experiences of loss and neglect and/or abuse.

Parental responsibilities

For any child or young person aged under 16 appearing before a court there is a statutory requirement that parents/guardians attend during all stages of proceedings. The court may also enforce this requirement for a young person aged 16 and above if it deems it desirable to do so. In addition to this responsibility there are also orders that can be imposed on parents. If the child or young person is aged under 16 then the court has a duty to make a parental bind over or impose a parenting order, if it would be desirable in the interest of preventing the commission of further offences. There is a discretionary power to make these orders where the young person is aged 16 or 17.

Available Sentences

Custodial sentences are a last resort for all children and there is an expectation that they will be particularly rare for children and young people aged 14 or under.

Order                                                                                        Age range

Absolute or conditional discharge or reparation order       10-17yrs

Financial Order                                                                        10-17yrs

Referral Order                                                                          10-17yrs

Youth rehabilitation order (YRO)                                            10-17yrs

Detention and Training Order

(for persistent offenders only)                                                12-17yrs

YRO with intensive supervision and surveillance or fostering 

(for persistent offenders only)                                                12-17yrs

s.91 PCC(S) Act detention (grave crime)                              10-17yrs

Extended sentence of detention                                            10-17yrs

Grave Crimes

Grave crimes are serious offences that have a maximum sentence for an adult of 14 years or more and some violent and sexual offences. These matters are likely to be either heard in the Crown Court.

Gillian Hayler

Gillian Hayler

Gillian has specialised in criminal defence for the last 14 years and is an Accredited Police Station Representative.  She builds strong and successful criminal defence cases and works closely with Crown Court trial advocates.

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