Severe delays in the criminal justice system as a result of the coronavirus are resulting in serious consequences for those who turn 18 between the offence and prosecution and are not protected by measures in the youth justice system.
A report by the Youth Justice Centre, which is part of Just for Kids Law, reveals that the delays, exacerbated by the Coronavirus pandemic, are leaving children, families and victims in limbo and impacting on those children turning 18 before their prosecution.
Enver Solomon, Chief Executive at Just for Kids Law, said: ”It is a travesty of justice that due to unnecessary delays in the criminal justice system young people who have offended in childhood are not able to benefit from legal protections which exist for those who break the law as children. As a result of the pandemic and court closures the situation is much worse with yet more delays and even more children being convicted as adults. Timely justice is crucial for children, families and victims. Young adults who committed offences as children must be given the opportunity to build meaningful futures and be treated fairly.”
According to the most recent official data, 1,400 offences a year are committed by children who turn 18 prior to conviction but this is a significant underestimate and the number is expected to rise.
The outcomes for children who turn 18 are incredibly different to those of their peers who are prosecuted as children. The consequences include:
- Losing access to youth diversion schemes
- Losing anonymity during court proceedings
- Only being eligible for adult sentences
- Adult sentences mean much longer rehabilitation periods which reduce employment prospects and prevent people from moving on with their lives.
Just for Kids Law is calling for timely justice for those who commit offences as children. The report, Timely Justice: Turning 18, recommends that where this is not possible the same sentencing framework should be applied to all those who offend in childhood.
It also calls for a time limit of three months for which a child can be subject to release under investigation.
The report also identifies an urgent need to collect and regularly publish accurate data on children who are released under investigation and those who commit offences but turn 18 prior to conviction.
The Youth Justice Legal Centre has also developed a legal guide to help lawyers navigate the different rules, regimes and principles which apply to those turning 18 in the criminal justice system.
Just for Kids Law is a UK charity that works with and for children and young people to hold those with power to account and fight for wider reform by providing legal representation and advice, direct advocacy and support, and campaigning to ensure children and young people in the UK have their legal rights and entitlements respected and promoted and their voices heard and valued.
The Youth Justice Legal Centre (YJLC) was set up by the charity Just for Kids Law to provide legally accurate information, guidance and training on youth justice law.
Timely Justice: Turning 18 A briefing on the impact of turning 18 in the criminal justice system