In April 2015, when section 53 Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 came into force, youth courts were encouraged to retain jurisdiction in more cases because they now had greater powers to commit for sentence following conviction. This, combined with the guidance given by Sir Brian Leveson in R (on the application of the DPP) v South Tyneside Youth Court  EWHC 1455 (Admin), means there is an increasing expectation that most cases involving children (except the most serious) will remain in the youth court.
Courts now have the power to commit children convicted of a grave crime to the Crown Court for sentence1 (see our legal update here). Prior to this change, youth courts had to determine jurisdiction at the outset of the case (unless a finding of dangerousness was made).
This was bolstered by guidance given in R (on the application of the DPP) v South Tyneside Youth Court  EWHC 1455 (Admin) (see our legal update here) which stated that the new power revises the “real prospect” test:
“Because s. 3B (as amended) of the 2000 Act means that the youth court is not making a once and for all decision at the point of allocation, the “real prospect” assessment requires a different emphasis and taking the prosecution case at its highest is no longer necessary; to that extent, the observations of Langstaff J in Oldham Youth Court no longer apply.” [para 31]
In the future it will be rare for children charged with grave crimes to be tried in the Crown Court:
“For the future, there will, of course, be cases in which the alleged offending is so grave that a sentence of or in excess of two years will be a “real prospect” irrespective of particular considerations in relation either to the offence or the offender’s role in it: such cases are, however, likely to be rare.” [para 31]
For more information see: Youth Court Jurisdiction: The Modern Approach, Justices’ Clerks Society and Senior District Judge (Chief Magistrate), July 2015 (Intended for legal advisers, judges and magistrates. Please note that this document has no official status).
Practitioners are reminded to refer to both the new power under Section 53 Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 and the guidance contained in R (on the application of the DPP) v South Tyneside Youth Court  EWHC 1455 (Admin) when dealing with jurisdiction in the youth court. It should now be rare for cases to be committed to the Crown Court for trial.
- Section 3B (as amended) of the 2000 Act as amended by section 53 Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 (back)