The Court of Appeal reduced the sentence of an 18 year old on the basis that not enough weight had been given to the features of his youth, his immaturity and his lack of appreciation of the seriousness of his offending and the harm it caused.
The appellant was convicted of a series of rapes. He was 18 years old when he committed the offences against victims between 13 and 16 and was convicted after trial in relation to some of the offences and pleaded guilty to others. The judge found him dangerous and sentenced him to an extended determinate sentence under section 226A of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, comprising of a custodial term of 21 years’ detention and an extension period of 8 years.
The Court of Appeal considered the Sentencing Council’s Definitive Guideline in relation to the sentencing of children and young people and noted that, had the appellant committed the offences a few months earlier, the sentencing principles in that guideline would have applied. The court considered Peters 1 and Clarke 2 and found ‘the fact that the appellant had attained the age of 18 before he committed the offences [did] not of itself mean that the factors relevant to the sentencing of a young offender had necessarily ceased to have any relevance. He had not been invested overnight with all the understanding and self-control of a fully mature adult’.
The Court held that if the trial judge had taken into account the appellant’s mitigation and arrived at a notional sentence of 24 years’ custody after trial, he must have had in mind a higher sentence for a mature adult, which would have been manifestly excessive. The appellant’s custodial term was reduced to 18 years and the extension period of 8 years remained unchanged.
This judgment confirms that practitioners representing 18 year olds should not shy away from using the Sentencing Council’s Definitive Guideline in relation to the sentencing of children and young people. It further confirms that a person’s immaturity and how this contributes to the way they view their offending is relevant mitigation, however unattractive a position that may be. Young adults are increasingly being recognised as a cohort who require a distinct approach within the criminal justice system and none are more deserving of that than those who have only recently turned 18.