Criminal justice professionals will, from 17 February 2012, have to consider a young adult’s ‘lack of maturity’ throughout the sentencing process, for all drug offences.
On 24 January 2012, the Sentencing Council for England and Wales implemented its new definitive guideline on drug offence. This is the Council’s third guideline, following its guideline on assault and burglary.
For drug offences (as previously with assault and burglary) ‘Age and/or lack of maturity where it affects the responsibility of the offender’ is included as one of the ‘factors reducing seriousness or reflecting personal mitigation’ .
These guidelines are the first instances in British sentencing history that ‘maturity’ has specifically featured in guidelines for sentencing adults. A 2011 report by the Criminal Justice Alliance for T2A outlines these latest developments in more detail. There is also a T2A report on international norms and practices available for download.
A review of international research by Birmingham University in 2011 on maturity and criminal justice found that:
‘Research reviewed in this report points emphatically to the inappropriateness of an arbitrary age limit as the key factor determining the kind of judicial response an offender should receive, and that in the young adult group, the level of maturity exhibited by an offender is a valid factor to be considered within the legal process. There are, moreover, indications that this conclusion is becoming accepted in a growing number of national jurisdictions, albeit to varying degrees”.
Earlier in 2011, ComRes found that two thirds of the public and 80% of MPs support maturity of young adults being taken into account in the sentencing process.
T2A’s submission to the Sentencing Council’s consultation on the sentencing guidelines for drug offences is below.