The Court of Appeal has reduced the sentence of an 18-year-old on the basis that not enough weight had been given to his youth, his immaturity and his lack of appreciation of the seriousness of his offending and the harm it caused.
The appellant was 18 when he committee a series of rapes, and was sentenced to an extended determinate sentence under section 226A of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, comprising of a custodial term of 21 years and an extension period of eight years. The Court of Appeal considered the Sentencing Council's definitive guideline in relation to the sentencing of children and young people and noted that, had the appellant committed the offences a few months earlier, the sentencing principles in that guideline would have applied. The court found that 'the fact that the appellant had attained the age of 18 before he committed the offences [did] not of itself mean that the factors relevant to the sentencing of a young offender had necessarily ceased to have any relevance. He had not been invested overnight with all the understanding and self-control of a fully mature adult.' The court held that if the trial judge had taken into account the appellant's mitigation and arrived at a notional sentence of 24 years after trial, he must have had in mind a higher sentence for a mature adult, which would have been excessive. The appellant's custodial term was reduced to 18 years and the extension period of eight years remained unchanged.
This judgment demonstrates that a person's immaturity and how that contributes to their way of offending is relevant mitigation, and confirms that practitioners representing 18-year-olds should not shy away from using the Sentencing Council's definitive guideline in relation to the sentencing of children and young people. Young adults are increasingly being recognised as a cohort which requires a distinct approach within the criminal justice system and none are more deserving of that than those who have only recently turned 18.
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