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The long awaited provisions in the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 came into force yesterday. The Act covers several areas relevant to youth justice, as outlined by the Youth Justice Board in its latest update. Here we outline some of the changes of relevance to those of you working in youth justice:

Meeting a child following sexual grooming etc (s36) – from two to one

The number of occasions on which a defendant must meet or communicate with a child in question to commit the offence of ‘meeting a child following sexual grooming’, has been reduced from two to one. 

Secure colleges (s38)

The Secretary of State now has the power to provide young offender institutions, secure training centres and secure colleges. 

Youth Cautions and Youth Conditional Cautions – involvement of Appropriate Adults (s41)

This amends the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 so that any Youth Caution or Youth Conditional Caution given to a young person aged 17 must be given in the presence of an Appropriate Adult; an extension of the provision that already applies to those aged 16 and under.

Youth Referral Orders (ss43–45)

These provisions mean that courts will have the power to:
  • revoke an existing Referral Order where it is in the interests of justice to do so. Referral Orders will no longer be automatically revoked when a young person is handed another sentence for a further offence (unless custodial)
  • extend second and subsequent Referral Orders where the young person has committed a further offence, as they can currently do for first Referral Orders
  • extend the existing Referral Order or impose a fine of up to £2,500 where the young person is referred back to court for non-compliance.

Committal of young offenders convicted of certain serious offences (s53)

The youth court can now commit cases for sentence to the Crown Court for children and young people convicted in any case and not just those where there was an indication of a guilty plea from the outset. It is hoped that this aspect of sentencing brings the youth position in line with that for adults. 

Reporting restrictions in youth cases (ss78–79)

Courts now have the ability to impose lifetime reporting restrictions for victims and witnesses under the age of 18 involved in criminal proceedings. With that, the scope of reporting restrictions beyond just newspapers and broadcasts has been expanded to cover any communication with the public. Long awaited, this includes online content and in particular social media. 

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