The number of children and young people sentenced at court in England and Wales decreased by more than three-quarters between 2008 and 2018 (77%), from 88,400 to 20,300. The figures were provided in an analysis by the Sentencing Council looking at the impact of the 2017 publication of new guidelines on the sentencing of children and young which found outcomes remained similar before and after.
The number of young people sentenced for robbery over this period decreased from 3,500 in 2008 to 1,100 in 2018. For non-penetrative sexual offences, the number decreased from 230 to 100, while for penetrative sexual offences the numbers fluctuated between 90 and 150 offenders sentenced per year between 2008 and 2017, with 70 offenders sentenced in 2018. The Ministry of Justice reports that decreases were due to changes in policing practices, a reduction in youth crime, and longer-term trends which have seen reductions in the risk factors associated with offending behaviour for this age group.
The Sentencing Children and Young People Guideline Assessment was issued as guidance to Section 120 of the Coroners and Justice Act of 2009. The new guidance highlights how ‘when sentencing children or young people…a court must have regard to the principal aim of the youth justice system (to prevent offending)’. Three-quarters of the 60 sentencers surveyed said the new guidance was easy to use and 85% said that it helped aid sentencing.
According to sentencing analysis from 2008 to 2018, sentencing outcomes remained similar after the publication of the report and, for example, 8% were fined and 68% were sentenced with community orders – this remained consistent.
The Sentencing Council noted that ‘higher proportions’ of Black and Asian young people receieved immediate custody compared with their White counterparts: 10% of cases involving Black young people ended with a sentence of immediate custody after the implementation of the guidelines. This is compared to 6% for White children and young people.
The majority of sentencers – 41 of the 60 surveyed – believed that the severity of sentencing had decreased or stayed the same. The data revealed a small increase in the proportions of Black children and young people and those of other ethnicities sentenced, and a small decrease in the proportions of White and Asian children and young people.