Juvenile courts given greater powers

Courts handling juvenile offenders have been given powers to review lenient sentences in serious fraud cases.

New legislation under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act and coming into force last week, also introduces a pilot scheme for the use of electronic tagging in curfew sentencing.

Courts will be able to impose long terms of detention on 10-13-year-olds convicted of certain serious offences. Until now, only community-based sentences could be imposed for these crimes.

Courts can now detain this age group for any offence for which an adult can be jailed for 14 years or more. This includes rape, arson, domestic burglary and robbery.

Long term detention could previously be given only in murder and manslaughter cases.

In addition, the new powers will apply to any 10-15-year-old convicted of indecent assault on a woman. Previously only 16 and 17-year-olds could be detained for this offence.

In addition, a new type of curfew order as a sentence will be piloted by courts in Manchester, Reading and Norfolk. The scheme is based on electronic tagging, which was introduced in the 1991 Criminal Justice Act (see page seven).

Curfews will be for a maximum of 12 hours a day for up to six months.

Both the Law Society and National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (NACRO) support the principle of wider powers for the courts, but have reservations about the use of curfews for sentencing rather than as a bail measure.

A provision enabling the Home Secretary to extend the Attorney General's powers to refer unduly lenient sentences to the Court of Appeal in serious fraud cases also came into force.