UK Legislation

Justice for minors in the United Kingdom, summary report, 2000

Age of Criminal Responsibility: Article 34 of the Crime and Disorder Act (law on preventing crime and disturbing public order, which came into effect in September 1998) removed the concept of criminal irresponsibility for children aged between ten and fourteen.  Since then, the age of criminal responsibility has thus been ten.  Meanwhile, the age when you can be tried as an adult has not been changed – it is still eighteen.
Trials: Whilst an integrated approach, combining child protection and justice for minors, operated from 1969, the 90s saw the courts move away from the protection system.
Despite the creation in 1986 of a public ministry, the Crown Prosecution Service, the police are still in charge of prosecuting.  Once prosecution begins, the police must pass on the case to the CPS which can decide whether to continue or stop the legal proceedings.  The police only investigate and collect evidence.  The judge only intervenes during the trial to authorise the police to carry out certain acts.  The trial is identical to an adult trial.  The decision not to prosecute under certain conditions in the most commonly taken.  Social surveys and medical studies are carried out during the investigation.  Temporary detention may be decided on if the minor has been disrupting public order or if the minor’s case history warrants it.
There is relative specialisation, i.e. a Youth Court for juvenile delinquents under 18. Nevertheless, depending on the seriousness of the crime, minors may be tried in adult courts.
Measures that can be applied to young delinquents: These can be applied to children between ten and seventeen.
Educational and disciplinary measures: If the crime in question is a first offence and very minor, the police will not press charges or will only but the perpetrator under observation. Since 1998, minors have only been able to have this warning once.  When the crime is more serious, it’s the court that decides.  The court can impose the following measures, of which the majority can only be applied to minors over sixteen:
– Put the minor on probation for a maximum of three years
 – Award Community Service for three months.  The minor must respect the programme, which aims to prevent re-offending and to promote reintegration.
 – a combination of being put on probation and community service
– respect for a curfew, which since 1996 can be controlled by electronic bracelets
– putting the minor under surveillance for between one and three years, which for minors under sixteen may include having to stay within the city, as well as the obligation to carry out repair work for either the victim or the community
– minors’ obligation to carry out repair work, either for the victim if they agree, or for the community
– minors’ obligation to take part in, for two to three hours each Saturday, in activities normally organised by schools.  This punishment can be applied to young people between ten and twenty-one.

Imprisonment:  When a crime committed by a minor over twelve, which had it been committed by an adult over twenty-one would have justified a prison sentence, and when releasing the juvenile delinquent represents a threat to public order, the courts can decide to award the minor a prison sentence.
The detention and training order which, by virtue of Article 73 of the Crime and Disorder Act, replaced the secure training order, details a combined form or punishment which takes place in specialist centres.  It can be applied to minors aged between ten and seventeen.  The duration of the punishment is four, six, eight, ten, twelve, eighteen or twenty-four months and comprises a period of detention including obligatory training and a period of monitored freedom under the surveillance of a probation agent or a social worker.
Minors over fifteen are detained in youth institutions or in separate units within adult prisons. Those under fifteen are placed in specialist institutions, homes or reform schools.  In general, incarceration should not exceed one year.
Points of reference: Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, Children Act 1989, Criminal Justice Act 1991, Crime and Disorder Act 1998.

Anti-social Behaviour Bill

The purpose of the Anti-social Behaviour Bill is to provide the tools for practitioners and agencies to effectively tackle anti-social behaviour.
It contains measures drawn up from across five Government Departments and builds on existing legislation to clarify, streamline and reinforce the powers that are available to practitioners.

The Bill includes powers to:
widen the use of Fixed Penalty Notices – e.g. noise nuisance, truancy, graffiti– and applying them to 16-17 year olds new action to close down ‘crack houses’ powers to disperse groups in designated areas suffering persistent and serious ASB extending powers to deal with aggravated trespass simplifying powers to deal with unauthorised encampments (provided alternative sites are available) restricting the use of air weapons and replica guns. Banning air cartridge weapons that are easily converted to firearms a new offence to sell spray paints to under 18s and stronger powers for local authorities to tackle fly-tipping, graffiti and fly-posting widening powers to shut down establishments that create noise nuisance powers for local authorities to tackle graffiti on street furniture powers to social landlords to take action against anti-social tenants including faster evictions and removing their right to buy their home courts to consider the impact of anti-social behaviour on the wider community in all housing possession cases improving the operation of Anti-social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs).

The Bill successfully completed its Common stages in June 2003 and Second Reading in the House of Lords took place on 18 July 2003. Committee stage in the Lords will take place during October.

See the full Anti-social Behaviour Bill on the UK Parliament website.