When defending youths you must always remember to work in accordance with the statutory duties of the youth justice system and the welfare principle. A juvenile is someone who is under 18 years of age. The main aim of the youth justice system is to prevent offending by children and young people.
The concept of parental responsibility is central to representing juveniles. This concept is defined in s 3(1) of the 1989 Act as all the rights duties powers and responsibilities which by law a parent has in relation to a child. You will be working closely with those with parental responsibility for your client in order to achieve the best possible result. The person with parental responsibility is also likely to be acting as an appropriate adult in police station interview and will be involved in any parenting orders or fines meted out by the court.
There are a range of pre court orders available to prevent the juvenile from entering the criminal justice system. These include acceptable behaviour contracts where the parents or guardian agree a contract to stop the behaviour or antisocial behaviour order: which prevents the young person from going to particular places and becoming involved in specified activities.
During your first interview with a juvenile client ensure you take adequate time to explain the offence, criminal justice procedure and likely consequences. Taking into account their age and maturity and the fact that they would normally be interviewed with an appropriate attitude there would be a higher level of patience required in order to receive full instructions and provide good advice.
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The CPS lawyer will have to bear in mind the welfare principle under s 44 CYPA 1933 when deciding how to proceed against a defendant. The CPS will have to consider the interests of the juvenile when deciding whether it is in the public interest to prosecute and should only prosecute where the offence is so serious that a prosecution is justified , the juvenile does not admit the offence and has failed to respond to a reprimand or final warning. The CPS will consider alternatives to prosecution which include informal warning, reprimand or final warning. If proceedings must be commenced it will begin with the laying of information or a written charge.
Prosecuting and Sentencing Offenders under the age of 18
Formal proceedings against a young person will be instigated in the youth court which is less formal and adversarial to accommodate the vulnerabilities of young people. If the plea is not guilty, the case will be adjourned and set for trial. If the plea is guilty the court could move immediately on to sentence or adjourn for a pre sentence report.
Bail is also likely to be dealt with in the fist court appearance and there is a presumption that bail will be granted unless there are grounds for believing the youth will fail to surrender , commit further offences interfere with witnesses, has committed prisonable offences whilst in bail or should be kept in custody for his own welfare.
The youth will be tried in the crown court where the charge is homicide including both murder and manslaughter, grave offences including sexual and firearms offences, the offence is dangerous or a youth is jointly tried with an adult on an indictable only offence.
Adult magistrates court This is where the youth is jointly charged with an adult in connection with a summary offence. However the case can be remitted to the youth curt where the adult pleads guilty and the youth pleads not guilty.
Youth Court sentencing powers : are contained in the Powers of the Criminal Courts Sentencing Act 2000 and the Criminal Justice Act 2003. Sentencing options include:
- DTO for the over 15's: ss 100-107 PCC (S) A 2000- this is a detention and training order and is the main custodial sentence for young offenders. Supervision will begin halfway through the sentence
- Community youth orders- the Criminal Justice Act 2003 covers these which include Drug Treatment and Testing Orders, Supervision Orders and Curfew Orders
- Reparation orders: ss 73-75 PCC (S) A 2000- this order is designed to addresses the consequences of the offending behaviour
- Referral orders: s16 PCC(S) A 2000- usually given for first time offenders who plead guilty. The youth will be referred to a youth offending panel where the parent or guardian will agree that they will address the causes of the offending behaviour.
- Fine/compensation: Part VI PCC(S) A 2000- relatively rare in the youth courts as it depends on the financial situation of the offender although the court may consider making the parent or guardian pay.
- Conditional discharge: s12 PCCS(A) 2000- the youth must not commit any further offences during the operational period of the conditional discharge or he will be punished for both the latter and the original offence.
- Parenting order s 8-10 Crime and Disorder Act 1998- this is aimed at improving the parenting skills of the offender's parent or guardian. The order will require the parents to attend parenting guidance sessions supervised by a probation officer for a period of 12 months.