Bill launches to ensure all crimes by young people dealt with by youth court

Fiona Simpson
Wednesday, February 24, 2021

A bill has been launched in parliament to ensure young people who commit crimes before they turn 18 are always dealt with in the youth court and receive a youth sentence.

Rob Butler MP present the bill in the House of Commons. Picture: Rob Butler/Twitter
Rob Butler MP present the bill in the House of Commons. Picture: Rob Butler/Twitter

The bill, which is due to have its second reading today (24 February), has been introduced by MP Rob Butler, a member of the House of Commons justice committee who formerly served on the Youth Justice Board.

Butler introduced the bill yesterday (23 February) via the 10 Minute Rule Bill, explaining that currently, the justice system treats a defendant according to their age on the date they first appear in court and enter a plea.

He explained the benefits of referral orders handed out to under-18s through youth courts as well as highlighting increased delays in cases reaching courts due to Covid-19.

“Consequently, if someone commits an offence aged 15, 16 or 17, but they don’t get to court until after their 18th birthday, they are treated as an adult. Delays in cases coming to court have been exacerbated recently due to the coronavirus pandemic and the use by police of Release Under Investigation,” he told the House of Commons.

He said: “The arbitrary cut-off date of a young person’s 18th birthday immediately affects both the type of court that deals with them and the range of sentences available. But there can then be a longer-lasting impact on the chance of rehabilitation, the likelihood of getting a job and the prospect of forever having to disclose a mistake from the past due to the rules on criminal records. 

“It is totally unfair to punish young people for the setting of a court date over which they have no control. It is no exaggeration to say the consequences can last a lifetime.”

The bill is co-sponsored by chair of the justice committee Bob Neill MP alongside Maria Eagle MP, Jeremy Wright QC MP, Andrew Selous MP, Crispin Blunt MP, Ed Timpson MP, Dan Jarvis MP, Sarah Champion MP, Sally-Ann Hart MP and Danny Kruger MP.

“This would be a relatively simple change to make in legislation as in many respects, it does no more than correct an anomaly. But for those affected, its impact would be profound, as it would enable young people to put their mistakes behind them and make a constructive contribution to our society. It would put more emphasis on preventing reoffending, and mean a fairer, more just system,” Butler added.

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