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R v Clarke – 18 is not a cliff edge for sentencing

R v Clarke, Andrews and Thompson [2018] EWCA Crim 185

This case, with judgment given by the Lord Chief Justice, stresses the continuing importance of taking into consideration maturity when sentencing young adults aged 18 or older.


The three defendants were convicted of serious offences.  They  kidnapped a boy from his home, kept him tied up in the woods overnight and threatened him with knives, rape and murder in order to blackmail his family.  They  terrorised the same family to try to prevent them giving evidence and also committed a very violent robbery.

When the offending took place, Clarke was 18, Thompson was 19 and Andrews was 17.  Clarke and Thompson were sentenced to 7 years and Andrews to 5.5 years.  The Crown wanted to appeal on the grounds that the sentences were unduly lenient.  Andrews wanted to appeal on the grounds that his sentence was manifestly excessive.

The Lord Chief Justice in his judgment made the following observations:

[R]eaching the age of 18 has many legal consequences, but it does not present a cliff edge for the purposes of sentencing. So much has long been clear. The discussion in R v Peters [2005] EWCA Crim 605, [2005] 2 Cr App R(S) 101 is an example of its application: See paras [10]-[12]. Full maturity and all the attributes of adulthood are not magically conferred on young people on their 18th birthdays. Experience of life reflected in scientific research (e.g. The Age of Adolescence:; 17 January 2018) is that young people continue to mature, albeit at different rates, for some time beyond their 18th birthdays. The youth and maturity of an offender will be factors that inform any sentencing decision, even if an offender has passed his or her 18th birthday. The ages of these offenders illustrate the point. The youth and immaturity of Clarke and Thompson were appropriate factors for the judge to take into account in these cases event though both were over 18 when they offended.’ [Bold added, para 5]

Leave to appeal was refused.


This is a ground-breaking judgment acknowledging that not only do children need to be treated differently to adults within the criminal justice system owing to their lack of maturity and culpability and that a child centred approach will reduce reoffending, but that the position for young adults (18 – 24 year olds) is similar and society as a whole will stand to benefit from a system which recognises this.