Juvenile offenders: a different approach needed? — Part II

In this series written for Criminal Law & Justice Weekly, Navpreet Virk and No5 member Richard Gibbs present the opposing arguments surrounding the manner in which the youth courts treat juveniles convicted of criminal offences and examine the countervailing arguments and policies. In this series, Virk sets out the general philosophical underpinnings of the current policy approach.

The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 ‘introduced a secure training order [STO] that enabled magistrates to lock up 12- to 14-year-olds for a much wider range of offences’, including criminal damage, theft and breach of an order. Furthermore, under the Criminal Court (Sentencing) Act in April 2000, STOs were replaced by the detention and training order, which made it ‘easier for 12- to 14-year-olds to be sentenced to custody’. Full discretion is given to courts with regard to determining whether a child is a persistent offender based on the young person’s pattern of behaviour.

Therefore, it is justified, when courts impose a sentence of imprisonment of a young offender with no previous records, on the grounds that they are seen as potentially ‘dangerous’ and likely to re-offend in the near future. This approach, has led to an ‘increasing number of younger children committing less serious offences’ being caught up in the criminal justice system, as opposed to the proportion of juveniles who commit serious offences…

Click on the link below to read the rest of the No5 Chambers briefing.

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