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Court of Appeal judgment on mental health conditions which affect maturity

R v AS [2019] EWCA Crim 1458

The Court of Appeal reduced a 13 year old’s custodial sentence as not enough weight was attached to the fact that his Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) contributed to his functioning at a  lower level than an average 13 year old.


AS was 13 years old when he and some other similarly aged boys committed a kidnapping and a robbery. The two 11 year old victims were led away through fields and one of them was robbed and subjected to various humiliations including having to jump in a cold lake, eat muddy biscuits and be filmed on a mobile phone.

AS was sentenced to 33 months detention under section 91 Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000. The sentencing judge referred to various principles in the sentencing guideline for children and young people and the child specific guideline for robbery and acknowledged that AS suffered from ADHD and ASD. However, the Court of Appeal held that ‘he did not explicitly refer to, and in our view did not sufficiently take into account, the important features that AS’s conditions made him particularly easy to lead and limited his ability to recognise the consequences of his actions. Secondly, and in a related error, the Recorder failed sufficiently to take into account that when comparing the seriousness of AS’s offending with that of BH, the difference between the two was not simply 1 year of chronological age: the difference between them was the difference between an older boy and a younger boy who, because of his condition, functioned in relevant ways as a much younger child’ (paragraph 32). The 33 month sentence was reduced by 9 months.


This case is an example of when the courts have been persuaded to go further than just referring to the appropriate sentencing guidelines and have considered what the real implications of  a cognitive condition on a child are. However, what will the impact of a two year custodial sentence on a child with such complex needs be and will it go any further to furthering the objective of preventing reoffending?