Youth Crime – sentencing principles – Part 2

Created on June 21, 2017

Youth Crime - sentencing principles - Part 2

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 2.   Part 1 can be found here

Reduction in sentence for guilty plea

The regime in respect of a discount for guilty plea in the Youth Court is the same as it is for adults. 

The maximum level of reduction for a guilty plea is one-third for a plea indicated at the first hearing. After the first stage of the proceedings the maximum level of reduction is one-quarter, which will be reduced to a maximum of one-tenth on the first day of trial. The reduction will normally be decreased further, even to zero, if the guilty plea is entered during the course of the trial.

Different types of sentence available for youths:

Absolute or conditional discharge and reparation orders

An absolute discharge is appropriate in the least serious cases when, despite a finding of guilt, the court considers that no punishment should be imposed.

A conditional discharge is appropriate when, despite a finding of guilt, the offence is not serious enough to warrant an immediate punishment. The fixed period of conditional discharge must not exceed three years. Unless exceptional circumstances are found, a conditional discharge cannot be imposed if the child or young person has received one of the following in the previous 24 months: two or more cautions; or a conditional caution followed by a caution.

A reparation order can require a child or young person to make reparation to the victim of the offence, where a victim wishes it, or to the community as a whole. Before making an order the court must consider a written report from a relevant authority, e.g. a youth offending team (YOT), and the order must be commensurate with the seriousness of the offence.

Financial order

The court may impose a fine for any offence (unless the criteria for a mandatory referral order are met). When financial orders are being considered, priority must be given to compensation orders and, when an order for costs is to be made alongside a fine, the amount of the cost must not exceed the amount of the fine.

If the child or young person is under 16 then the court has a duty to order parents or guardians to pay the fine; if the young person is 16 or over this duty is discretionary. In practice, many children and young people will have limited financial resources and the court will need to determine whether imposing a fine will be the most effective disposal. The court should bear in mind that children and young people may have money that is specifically required for travel costs to school, college or apprenticeships and lunch expenses.

Referral orders

A referral order is the mandatory sentence in a youth court or magistrates’ court for most children and young people who have committed an offence for the first time and have pleaded guilty to an imprisonable offence.

Referral orders are the main sentence for delivering restorative justice and all panel members are trained Restorative Conference Facilitators; as such they can be an effective sentence in encouraging children and young people to take responsibility for their actions and understand the effect their offence may have had on their victim.

In cases where children or young people have offended for the first time and have pleaded guilty to committing an offence which is on the cusp of the custody threshold, the Youth Offending Team (YOT) may convene a Youth Offender Panel prior to sentence, where the child or young person is asked to attend before a panel and agree an intensive contract. If that contract is placed before the sentencing youth court, the court can then decide whether it is sufficient to move the sentence below custody on this occasion.

The court determines the length of the order but a Referral Order Panel determines the requirements of the order.

Offence seriousness                 Suggested length of referral order

Low                                              3 – 5 months

Medium                                       5 – 7 months

High                                             7 – 9 months

Very high                                    10 – 12 months

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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