Latest articles
Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust v DV (A Child) [2021] EWHC 1037 (Fam)
(Family Division, Cohen J, 19 April 2021)Medical Treatment – 17-year-old had form of bone cancer and required surgery For comprehensive, judicially approved coverage of every important...
Domestic Abuse Bill
Aaron Gates-Lincoln, Immigration NewsAfter years of development the Domestic Abuse Bill returned to the House of Lords in the UK on the 8th March 2021 to complete its report stage, one of the final...
Coercive control and children’s welfare in Re H-N and Others
When families come to strife, arrangements must be made for the future care of any children. In some circumstances, this means an application to the courts. These ‘private law orders’ can...
Profession: Expert Witness
The value of a family business or business interest is treated as an asset and therefore part of the matrimonial pot to be distributed when it comes to negotiating a financial settlement on divorce or...
How does a jointly held property pass on death?
When meeting with clients to discuss their succession planning, many cannot recall whether their property is held jointly as joint tenants or jointly as tenants in common. The distinction is that with...
View all articles

Legal limbo for children: The risks of turning 18

Jan 28, 2021, 12:10 PM
Legal Age, 18
Slug :
Meta Title : Legal limbo for children: The risks of turning 18
Meta Keywords :
Canonical URL :
Trending Article : No
Prioritise In Trending Articles : No
Date : Jan 28, 2021, 12:10 PM
Article ID :

The impact of Coronavirus is significant and far-reaching for all children and young adults. For a youth justice system creaking under strain with serious delays, the lockdown has only compounded the problems and brings a raft of serious consequences. Timely justice is ever more important.

A report by the Youth Justice Legal Centre has highlighted the prevalence and consequences of lengthy delays in the youth justice process. The report highlighted the most recent official data which shows that 1,400 offences a year are committed by children who turn 18 prior to conviction. However, this is a significant underestimate and the number is expected to rise, not least due to the current crisis and rising backlog within the police, CPS and courts.

Any delay between an offence taking place and a child or young person being processed by the youth justice system is unacceptable but unfortunately all too common. It can take months and often years for a police investigation to conclude or for the CPS to reach a charging decision. Further delays arise due to court availability. When a child turns 18 prior to appearing in court they lose the protections afforded to children within the youth justice system which include:

  • Anonymity;
  • Out of court disposals available to children (under 18);
  • Specialist Youth Court;
  • Alternatives to custody offered to children;
  • Child sentencing guidelines which consider immaturity and likelihood of reoffending.


The Youth Justice Legal Turning 18 report lists a number of much needed recommendations including fast tracking cases involving children, retaining anonymity where an offence was committed when under 18 and ensuring that there is a maximum time limit for children who are Released Under Investigation by the police.

Children’s brains and maturity are constantly developing. A child that commits an offence at 13 is an entirely different person when charged at 15. If the youth justice system is to meet its aims of preventing reoffending and operating with a child centred approach the relevance of age at the time of the offence has to be considered. See our previous blogs on this topic here and here.

Research and Case Law

There is a wealth of research around the Age Crime Curve which shows that peak offending occurs during adolescence and young adulthood before it tails off. Recent neuroscience research indicates that brain maturation occurs around 25 years of age and that teenagers and young adults are very susceptible to peer pressure.

Recent case law has begun to consider these developments in what has been described as a “modern approach” to sentencing.

  • Attorney General’s Reference (R v Clarke) [2018] 1 Cr App R (S) 52 (18 does not present a  cliff edge);
  • R v Hobbs [2018] 2 Cr App R(S) 36 Lord Chief Justice (Modern approach to sentencing. Young people who offend in early adulthood but are far from the maturity of adults);
  • R v Balogun [2018] EWCA Crim 2933 (Factors relevant to sentencing of a young offender do not cease to have relevance when turn 18);
  • See also Ghafoor [2002] EWCA Crim 1857 (where offence committed as child but over 18 at time of sentence, the starting point for sentence should be the sentence which the young person would have been likely to receive at date offence was committed).

Final thoughts

There is a growing body of case law that recognises turning 18 is not a “cliff edge” upon which a child transforms into a fully mature adult. The youth justice sentencing guidelines are also increasingly being referred to as relevant for young adults.

These developments are welcome and overdue. However, whilst the police, CPS and judiciary catch up with this modern approach it is vital that children and young adults who come into contact with the youth justice system receive appropriate legal advice and are able to raise these crucial arguments at the earliest stage of an investigation. It is not in any young person’s interest to reach the Court of Appeal before someone understands and applies the guidelines to their particular case.

Categories :
  • News
Tags :
  • Children
  • Legal Age
Provider :
Product Bucket : Children (Private)
Related Articles
Load more comments
Comment by from