QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION
B e f o r e :
MR JUSTICE FIELD
|THE QUEEN ON THE APPLICATION OF|
|CROWN PROSECUTION SERVICE (REDBRIDGE SECTION)||(CLAIMANT)|
|REDBRIDGE YOUTH COURT||(DEFENDANT)|
Smith Bernal Wordwave Limited
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(Official Shorthand Writers to the Court)
MR IAN WISE appeared on behalf of the INTERESTED PARTY
THE DEFENDANT was not present or represented
Crown Copyright ©
Wednesday, 8th June 2005
"On this basis, dealing with a youth, we do not believe in this case these offences will attract a sentence substantially in excess of two years."
"(1) Where a person under the age of 18 years appears or is brought before a magistrates' court on an information charging him with an indictable offence other than one falling within subsection (1B) below, he shall be tried summarily unless -
(a) the offence is such as is mentioned in subsection (1) or (2) of section 91 of the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 (under which young persons convicted on indictment of certain grave crimes may be sentenced to be detained for long periods) and the court considers that if he is found guilty of the offence it ought to be possible to sentence him in pursuance of subsection (3) of that section; ...
and accordingly in a case falling within paragraph (a) ... of this subsection the court shall commit the accused for trial if either it is of opinion that there is sufficient evidence to put him on trial or it has power under section 6(2) above so to commit him without consideration of the evidence."
"(1) Subsection (3) ... applies where a person aged under 18 is convicted on indictment of -
(a) an offence punishable in the case of a person aged 21  or over with imprisonment for 14 years or more, not being an offence the sentence for which is fixed by law; or
(3) If the court is of the opinion that none of the other methods in which the case may legally be dealt with [neither a community sentence nor a detention and training order] is suitable, the court may sentence the offender to be detained for such period, not exceeding the maximum term of imprisonment with which the offence is punishable in the case of a person aged 21  or over, as may be specified in the sentence."
(1) Although it is not necessary, in order to invoke the provisions under section 91, that the crime be one of exceptional gravity (R v Mills  2 Cr App R (S) 128 at page 131, per Lord Bingham CJ), the power to make an order for detention is a "long-stop reserved for very serious offences": R(W) v Thetford Youth Court; R(M) v Waltham Forest Youth Court  EWHC 1252 (Admin),  1 Cr App R (S) 67, at para 20.
(2) In considering the application of section 24, the Youth Court should start with a strong presumption against sending a young defendant to the Crown Court unless it is satisfied that this is clearly required, notwithstanding the fact that the forum for trial will not be so appropriate for trial as the Youth Court: R(W) v Southampton Youth Court  EWHC (Admin) 140,  1 Cr App R (S) 87 at para 18 per Lord Woolf CJ. The general policy of the legislature is that those who are under 18 years of age and, in particular, children under 15 years of age, should, wherever possible, be tried in the Youth Court. A trial in the Crown Court should be reserved for the most serious cases: R(H, A & O) v Southampton Youth Court at paragraph 33.
(3) Accordingly, the effect of section 24 is that a magistrates' court should not decline jurisdiction unless the offence and the circumstances surrounding it and the offender are such as to make it more than a vague or theoretical possibility that a sentence of detention for a long period may be passed under section 91: R(D) v Manchester City Youth Court  EWHC (Admin) 860,  1 Cr App R (S) 135, at para 22.
(4) Given that the maximum period for which a magistrates' court may impose a detention and training order is 24 months (see sections 100 and 101 of the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000), section 91 is primarily applicable to cases of such gravity that the court is or may be considering a sentence of at least two years: R(D) v Manchester City Youth Court at para 22; R(W) v Thetford Youth Court at para 20; R(W) v Southampton Youth Court at para 19.
(1) The serious nature of the two indecent assaults under section 7 which carry a maximum sentence of 14 years, even when there has been no penetrative act;
(2) The substantial age difference between S and BS and the fact that BS was nearing adult age;
(3) The breach of trust involved, in that BS was S's school-appointed mentor;
(4) The sophisticated nature of the offences and the use of a false identity in order to entrap S;
(5) The premeditated nature of the offences;
(6) The use of threats of exposure, public disgrace and humiliation;
(7) The use of a white BMW to cause fear and distress;
(8) The sexual and perverse gratification in the offending; and
(9) The fact that BS implicated another innocent child in the events.
"It was never easy to sentence in such cases; the circumstances of each case would vary greatly. The sentencer must tailor the sentence to the facts of the case before the court."
"That the position would be different for an older person is obvious. Had an adult behaved in this manner to a 13 year old boy, sexual gratification would have been an obvious motive and a substantial custodial sentence would indeed have been justified. An older teenager could also lose his liberty. In my judgment, however, 13 and 14 year olds behaving in this way to one of their school friends, while deeply reprehensible and demanding condemnation, do not come within that category, and certainly not at the level of a sentence approaching two years."