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HMCPSI inspection of serious youth crime

MA Comment

06 March 2020
HMCPSI inspection of serious youth crime

HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI) has reviewed how the CPS handles serious youth crime.

The report found that while fewer children were entering the youth system, the cases that do reach court are often especially complex and serious. Most of the serious cases remain in the youth courts, but the most serious and difficult are sent to the Crown Court. The report also identified regional discrepancies regarding how well youth cases were dealt with. Areas with more youth courts and those with fully involved youth justice co-ordinators with clearly-defined rules had casework of a higher quality.

The inspection also found that youth policy and guidance was applied fully in 38% of cases. 

Recommendations for the CPS includes:

  • The criteria for becoming an approved youth offender specialist needs to be reviewed especially in relation to making regular court appearances. This is to ensure that they are familiar with policies and procedures
  • To ensure that specialist youth training is delivered to all those dealing with youth work, and that training, guidance and policy are always up-to-date
  • Ensuring that the youth justice coordinator is qualified as a youth offender specialist
  • Data and quality assurance need to be provided by Areas to help drive improvement in youth casework
  • All prosecutors dealing with youth cases need to ensure that they have refreshed their knowledge of policy and guidance
  • Prosecutors should have enough time to prepare youth cases for trial
  • There needs to be a clear strategy for prioritizing youth work, to ensure that it is dealt with promptly


Commenting on HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate’s report on serious youth crime, John Bache JP, National Chair of the Magistrates Association, said:

‘The Magistrates Association is very concerned with some aspects of this new report into serious youth crime, especially where it shows that in some areas youth cases are not treated as distinct from adult cases. All decisions involving children and young people require consideration of different factors to those involving adults. It is therefore vital that all youth cases are reviewed by a specialist before first hearing to ensure they are being dealt with appropriately. It is alarming that the inspectorate only found full compliance with youth policy and guidance, at the time of charging, in 38.1% of the cases that they examined.

‘The MA is also concerned with the evidence that over a third of youth cases are not being dealt with sufficiently promptly. The negative impacts of this are particularly damaging for children and young people, especially if they are remanded in custody while the case is progressed. We agree that all CPS areas should be required to produce specific youth performance data to drive improvement. Collection of disaggregated data would also ensure any disproportionality could be identified and addressed.’

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