The voices of young adult defendants

Young offenders' perceptions of magistrates' courts

Youth court scene

The Centre for Justice Innovation (CJI) has conducted research into young offenders' perceptions of procedural fairness in the magistrates' court, and how the court process could be improved. As recognised by the Justice Select Committee inquiry into young adult offenders, there is strong evidence that young adults are a distinct group with needs that are different both from children under 18 and adults over 25. As such, the CJI spoke to 21 young adult offenders in five court areas with recent experience of attending magistrates' court to hear about their experience and ascertain what they think could be done to improve the process. Three issues which repeatedly came up were the importance of understanding the process, the desire to have a meaningful voice, and feeling like they were treated with respect.

In working with five magistrate court areas, the CJI developed a model of procedural fairness which could be tested and evaluated to improve these experiences, and which included the following features:

  • Providing better information to defendants before attending court
  • Preparing defendants for the opportunity for direct engagement with the bench
  • Enhancing engagement during the hearing
  • Post-hearing follow up
  • Supporting voluntary take-up of community services

The full briefing paper can be found here.

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