AYM responds to the Sentencing Council consultation on bladed articles and offensive weapons

Our consultation response is summarised as follows;

The guidelines suggest that the adult sentencing guideline should be the same irrespective of age. While this is validated by the mitigating factors listed, concerning the age and maturity of the offender, we feel it is critical to raise our concern about recent
research, which suggests maturation and cognitive development in young adults is still happening up to 25 years. See article at http://www.pnas.org/content/113/32/9105.full or BBC News account at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-36887224 . So, applying a blanket adult sentencing approach to this age group along with all adult offenders needs some
attention.

We also have concerns about youths being treated the same as adults for sentencing purposes, except for a 1/3 or more deduction depending upon age. The need to see children as significantly different is part of the UN Convention on the Rights of Children
1988, as well as the need to recognise their maturation and cognitive developments. This approach of a reduction in sentence could be viewed as treating young people as junior adults rather than as children. We are keen to see the right approach to sentencing young people as children first, and as offenders second, managing the risks they pose to themselves and others, but also ensuring meaningful development into responsible adulthood. While there is a need to ensure transitions work effectively, we would repeat the point made in the previous paragraph about young adults’ cognition not being fully developed before the age of 25 years.

However, we do welcome  the proposal which states “the youth guideline follows a different structure to the adult guidelines, and does not include starting points or ranges.”

The AYM has an agreed policy statement about the use of custody for young offenders:
“That the punishment of custody for young offenders lies in the loss of liberty itself and therefore should only be used as a last resort and where the public have to be protected. Where young people have to be sent to custody they should be held in
small local secure units close to their home.” See http://aym.org.uk/about-us/where-westand/ .

This approach needs to be at the heart of all custodial decision making, in our view. It is based upon the knowledge that once a young person experiences custody their life chances are seriously adversely affected. This is backed up by many research examples, including the recent Laming Review at http://www.prisonreformtrust.org.uk/ProjectsResearch/CareReview

For a copy of our full response please contact Ian Langley, AYM Secretary e-mail: ian.langley@hants.gov.uk

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