Magistrates Association Youth Court Protocol – what's new?

News for youth court magistrates

Hannah Couchman - MA Policy & Research Officer (Youth and Family Court)

Hannah Couchman (pictured), MA Research and Policy Officer (Youth and Family Courts), has recently written a blog for the Youth Justice Legal Centre on the revised MA Youth Court Protocol.

Originally developed in 2003, as additional guidance for magistrates on the practices and processes of the youth justice system, the MA Youth Court Protocol has evolved into a useful resource for all those who come into contact with the youth court.

One of the key changes in the updated Protocol is the introduction of the new 'Overarching Principles – Sentencing Youths' guidelines, including offence-specific guidelines for sexual offences and robbery, which came into force this summer and encourage magistrates to look in greater detail at the age, background and circumstances of each child who appears before them.

Another key development is the use of technology in courts. As the justice system become increasingly digitised, with both witnesses and defendants appearing by video link, the MA has made it clear through the Protocol that children should appear in court in person unless there are exceptional circumstances.

Finally, the new Youth Court Protocol emphasises the need for specialist communication skills in the youth court to ensure children are able to understand and engage with the court process.

Overall, the Youth Court Protocol seeks to reflect the specialist nature of youth court proceedings and the need to provide a supportive, accessible environment which enables children to feel informed and understand the court process.

Read the full update here.

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