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Youth courts given new power to commit to Crown Court for sentence

Section 53 Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 in force 13 April 2015

Youth courts will now have the power to commit children convicted of a grave crime to the Crown Court for sentence. Prior to this change, youth courts could only commit a child if they pleaded guilty at the outset of proceedings. This is intended to increase the numbers of children tried in the youth court.

Details

The amendment1 extends the power to commit to the Crown Court for sentence whenever a child or young person is convicted of a grave crime.2 The power is now available if the youth court is of the opinion that the offence, or the combination of the offence and one or more offences associated with it, is such that the Crown Court should have the power to sentence the child or young person to long-term detention under section 91 of the 2000 Act.

Before these changes, the power to commit for sentence under section 3B(1) had been available only where the child or young person was convicted of such an offence following a guilty plea at the outset. The youth court should only use this power in cases where it subsequently transpires “that the offending was more serious than it first appeared when the Youth Court accepted the case.”3

The changes will apply where the child first appeared in court for the offence on or after 13 April 2015.

Commentary

Practitioners should use this extension of the youth court’s powers during jurisdiction arguments to persuade courts to retain jurisdiction in borderline cases. According to the MoJ guidance, “The purpose of extending the power to commit for sentence is to encourage the Youth Court to deal with cases involving serious crimes committed by children and young people wherever appropriate.”4

 

 

  1. Section 53 Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 amends section 3B(1) Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000  (back)
  2. Offences mentioned in section 91(1) of the 2000 Act  (back)
  3. Paragraph 162, Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015, Ministry of Justice Circular 2015/01  (back)
  4. Paragraph 162, Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015, Ministry of Justice Circular 2015/01  (back)