Saturday, 24 April 2010
Youth Court Trial
Grave crimes are those offences carrying terms exceeding 14 years for adults or sexual assault or child sex offences. Before the case is committed to Crown Court there must be a real possibility that a custodial sentence in excess of 2 years would be imposed.
Historically, rape was never tried in youth courts but nowadays certain rape cases may be tried in the Youth Court. A protocol issued in November 2007 provided that such cases should be heard by a Circuit Judge authorised to try serious sexual offences. The judge would sit as a District Judge (Magistrates' Courts). However, the 2007 protocol did not extend beyond rape to other serious sewxual offences.
It now appears that a number of District Judges (Magistrates' Courts) have been trained to deal with these serious cases. Under a more recent protocol (replacing the one of 2007) such cases would be listed before an authorised DJ(MC) who would first decide whether the case came within the grave crime provisions. If the decision is to retain the case then it would be tried by the authorised DJ(MC) though the possibility remains of some cases being tried by any other DJ(MC) or a Youth Court Bench.
One wonders whether this "single judge" form of trial is entirely appropriate given the enormous seriousness of conviction for such offences. Would this be (yet another) example of where there might be a bench chaired by the authorised DJ(MC) but sitting with two experienced Youth Justices? As things stand, English criminal procedure seems to be moving inexorably to single judge trial.