The most recent edition of the Crown Court Compendium Part II: Sentencing has been revised to include relevant considerations when sentencing children, in relation to both the legal framework and language and communication. Professor Kathryn Hollingsworth and Kate Aubrey-Johnson, in collaboration with speech and language consultant Clare Parkinson, have contributed to this edition of the Compendium, Part II includes a section setting out the available sentences for children in the Crown Court with amended ‘example’ sentencing remarks; and Appendix II which provides invaluable guidance to judges on Communicating Sentences to Children.
The most recent edition of the Compendium was published in August 2021. The Compendium is a guide provided by the Judicial College as an aid for judges to consult alongside the Sentencing Code, relevant sentencing guidelines and other key legal texts. It has been revised and enhanced by the introduction of a specific focus upon addressing the technical and language challenges of sentencing children.
The Compendium editors “hope that judges will benefit from the learning provided on this topic and not just when crafting sentencing remarks for children but by way of improving the clarity of sentencing remarks generally.”
“Passing sentence is one of the most challenging parts of being a judge …. What we say and how we say it is as important as the result itself, sometimes more so. Particular care is needed when sentencing children and those that are otherwise vulnerable or face challenges engaging meaningfully with the criminal justice system – hence the inclusion of material provided by Professor Hollingsworth and Kate Aubrey-Johnson.”
Part II of the Compendium reflects the structure of the Sentencing Code in a way that it is hoped users of this work will find helpful. Section 4 sets out all sentences for children, persons under the age of 18, with the exception of Detention at Her Majesty’s Pleasure which is included within the Mandatory Life Sentences (all ages) – S5.13.
Appendix II provides guidance to judges for writing and delivering sentencing remarks to children, and may be helpful to practitioners as well as judges. It includes a checklist of factors judges are encouraged to take into account in order to assist the child’s participation and understanding; a ‘dictionary’ of child-appropriate words; a table setting out the disabilities common amongst children in the youth justice system and the resulting needs; and specific strategies that can be employed to support children with language and communication difficulties to understand and engage with the sentencing process
A glossary of child-sensitive language is provided at the end of the Appendix II to explain the meaning of commonly used legal terms, in addition to a summary checklist of key considerations when sentencing children.
The importance of ensuring that children, especially those with speech and language and communication needs, understand the sentences they receive cannot be overstated. The updated guidance in the Compendium around drafting sentencing remarks supports this aim, having drawn on research by specialists in this area, including Professor Kathryn Hollingsworth and Kate Aubrey-Johnson.
More broadly, the updates underline the different approach required when sentencing children. The additional consideration of welfare factors in the sentencing exercise for children helps to avoid ‘criminalising’ children unnecessarily and supports the principle that sentencing should be individualistic.
Louise Ferdjani, Paul Hastings Europe LLP