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Youth court jurisdiction when a child turns 18

R v Ford (Lewis) [2018] EWCA Crim 1751

The Court of Appeal considered the position of a person who was 17 at their first appearance but turned 18 before the court dealt with any substantive issues in the case.

Details

The appellant had been accused of a stabbing.  Shortly before his 18th birthday he had his first appearance in the youth court.  On that occasion the court adjourned the matter without dealing with any of the substantive issues.  Three weeks later, the day after his 18th birthday, he returned to the youth court, entered a guilty plea and was committed to the crown court for sentence.

By virtue of section 24 Magistrates’ Court Act 1980 somebody under the age of 18 who ‘appears or is brought before a Magistrates’ Court’ in relation to an indictable offence shall be tried summarily.  This case analyses what ‘appears or is brought before a Magistrates’ Court’ means and following the case of R v islington Juvenile Court ex parte Daley (1992) 75 Cr App R 280 confirms that it refers to the occasion on which the court makes its decision on mode of trial.  By the time the youth court decided on mode of trial, the appellant was an 18 year old charged with an indictable offence.  The youth court had no jurisdiction to take his plea or commit him for sentence and the proceedings which followed were invalid.  The Court of Appeal reconstituted itself as the Divisional Court and quashed the committal for sentence.  Mr Justice William Davis reconstituted himself as a district judge and sent the appellant to the crown court, and the sentencing hearing took place immediately and the appellant he was sentenced to 4 years and 8 months (having originally been sentenced to 6 years 6 months).

Commentary

Lawyers should be fully appraised of the significant impact  of turning 18 for people who commit offences as children but turn 18 during the criminal justice process.