The Crown Prosecution Service has published the eighth edition of the Code for Crown Prosecutors following consultation.
The section entitled ‘what was the suspect’s age and maturity at the time of the offence?’ reads as follows:
‘The criminal justice system treats children and young people differently from adults and significant weight must be attached to the age of the suspect if they are a child or young person under 18. The best interests and welfare of the child or young person must be considered, including whether a prosecution is likely to have an adverse impact on their future prospects that is disproportionate to the seriousness of the offending.
Prosecutors must have regard to the principal aim of the youth justice system, which is to prevent offending by children and young people. Prosecutors must also have regard to the obligations arising under the United Nations 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Prosecutors should consider the suspect’s maturity, as well as their chronological age, as young adults will continue to mature into their mid-twenties.
As a starting point, the younger the suspect, the less likely it is that a prosecution is required. However, there may be circumstances which mean that, notwithstanding the fact that the suspect is under 18 or lacks maturity, a prosecution is in the public interest. These include where:
the offence committed is serious;
the suspect’s past record suggests that there are no suitable alternatives to prosecution; and
the absence of an admission means that out-of-court disposals that might have addressed the offending behaviour are not available.’
The need for prosecutors to consider a child or young adult’s maturity as well as their chronological age, and the recognition of the fact that young adults will continue to mature into their mid-twenties, is a welcome update on the previous edition of the code.