Saturday, 24 April 2010

Youth Court Trial

Persons under age 18 are normally tried in the Youth Courts which are based in Magistrates' Courts throughout England and Wales.  Magistrates have to be specifically authorised to sit in the youth court and the authorisation is achieved by undertaking additional specialist training.  However, where the offence charged is "grave" then trial would be in the Crown Court.

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.



  1. Do you have a link to the protocol?

  2. I have added the link at the end of the post.

  3. In my opinion the single judge trial is not appropriate for any case where there are serious consequences on conviction, either being a custodial sentence or any case carrying great opprobrium such as registration as a sex offender.

    Frankly, where the case hinges on any of nuanced circumstances, or the nature of a human reaction under stress, or the idea of what might be "normal", in any of these the idea of anyone being tried by a single judge terrifies me. No single person can have the life experience to be able to fairly try every such case.

    Single judge trials should be limited to motoring offences, littering, petty larceny, minor disorder and the like.

  4. i think some trials should be open to view so that children and the public really know what happens in courts and the charges that are pressed because i am doing some citezonship homework and i would like a true case to talk about, i want to be able to explain a true story about someone whos case went to a youth court, i want to be able to talk about the charges that are pressed and the consequences for bad behavior that young people show. i also want to know what the goverment and young people services do to help people turn their lives around after something happens that is taken to youth court.