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Youth Court Sentencing

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Keith Allen secures quashing of unlawful sentence in a case with national implications for the sentencing of youths.  Keith instructed Nicholas De La Poer of New Park Court Chambers.

On 24 February 2016 a divisional court of the High Court heard an appeal by way of case stated.  The case related to a 17 year old youth who had been sentenced to 8 months detention and training (DTO) in circumstances where, had he been one year older, he could and would not have received more than 4 months imprisonment in a young offenders institution.  The young man in question had originally been sentenced by the Youth Court to 8 months DTO and had tried, unsuccessfully, to appeal this sentence to the Crown Court.  Keith took the case to the High Court believing that a change in the law was necessary and that it was unfair for a youth to be treated more harshly than an adult.  Nicholas de la Poer was instructed Counsel for the High Court proceedings and advised throughout the case stated proceedings.

The question in the appeal to the High Court was whether it is unlawful, notwithstanding that the operative youth sentencing regime technically allows for it, to sentence a youth to longer than an adult could and would receive in similar circumstances.

Lord Justice Simon and Mr Justice Leggatt held, agreeing with Keith and Nick’s argument, that it is unlawful to sentence youth defendants to longer than that which an adult could and would receive in similar circumstances. As a result this defendant’s sentence, which was twice that an adult could have received, was quashed by the Court.

The High Court remitted the case back to the Crown Court for determination of the correct sentence length in the light of the conclusions reached.

It is anticipated that as a result of this case the practice which has developed across the country of sentencing youths to longer than adults in certain cases will now change.  That practice has arisen from remarks made in the course of the case of LCC v DPP [2001] EWHC 453 (Admin) which are cited in a number of practitioner text books as supporting the proposition that youths can be sentenced to longer periods in custody than adults in a similar situation.  The High Court held that these remarks were obiter and do not reflect youth sentencing practice in 2015/16.

The written judgment of the High Court is available here. Anyone affected by this case should feel free to contact Keith Allen to discuss.

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