Comprehensive summary from the Ministry of Justice on its approach to young adults is published

A letter sent by Justice Minister Dr Philip Lee MP to the chair of the Justice Select Committee, Bob Neill MP, was published on 14 March 2018. The letter updates last year’s government response to the Justice Committee’s Inquiry on young adult offenders.

It provides a very encouraging summary of current policy and delivery regarding young adults in the criminal justice system. It is the most comprehensive response to date from the government on this issue, and it is heartening that T2A is mentioned in several places. Below are some key highlights from the text:

“We accept the Justice Select Committee’s specific recommendations in relation to and acknowledging 18-25 year olds in the criminal justice system as a distinct group.

We accept that young men continue to mature into their mid-twenties, and this is informing practice in the following ways:

  • A resource pack to promote maturity (with individuals): We are currently piloting a “resource pack” to support staff to identify and work with 18-25 year olds; the group identified as specifically needing to develop maturity by the JSC. The pilots are in four establishments for six months and we would look to make the resource pack available more widely to both custody and community sites. We know that the development of maturity is fluid and that older and younger men and women could benefit from the selected exercises and will therefore be aiming to extend the target group post pilot. This development has been presented to members of Transition to Adulthood Alliance.
  • Assessments and screening for maturity (in groups of offenders): We have now published analysis of the maturity screening tool and the testing of its reliability and validity. We are incorporating this into our “Segmentation Tool”, to help prison and probation providers profile their populations. Better screening will help providers determine how many young adults under their care are likely to require services or interventions to promote maturation.
  • Acquired brain injury: We are improving identification and support of brain injury through grant funding to the Disabilities Trust. This will pay for a pilot in four English prisons, a Welsh prison and a Welsh Approved Premises. It will develop and test how we understand and meet the needs of those with Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). This work includes staff awareness training in relation to brain injuries and training in the administration of a screening measure.
  • Prosecution: Training in maturity is currently being delivered to CPS specialist youth prosecutors across England and Wales and all prosecutors were reminded in September that when weighing up whether a prosecution should be brought, age and maturity should be considered. Training for prosecutors includes a section on the importance of considering the ‘maturity’ of young adults (18-24 year olds), as part of the prosecutors’ review and decision-making process. More specifically, the face-to-face training allows prosecutors to consider and discuss the implications of maturity, including where it may be a relevant matter for cases involving young adults (18-24 year olds).
  • Sentencing: ‘Age and/or lack of maturity’ is considered a mitigating factor when passing sentence on a number of offences. Pre-sentence reports (PSRs) are prepared by the Probation Service to help the court determine the most suitable sentence for the offender. PSRs for offenders 18 to 25 must now include a consideration of the offender’s maturity to inform sentencing decisions.
  • A new National Young Offender Governance Board: Involves representatives of the NPS divisions in England and Wales and members of the Youth Justice Board. It is chaired by an National Probation Service divisional director. The board oversees seven strands of work in its delivery plan, including transitions (between youth and adult systems), courts and maturity assessments.
  • Young adult courts: We maintain an interest in finding approaches in adult courts that are appropriate to young adults and have looked at the useful externally-funded (Barrow Cadbury Trust) feasibility studies in this space. Though these feasibility exercises have not gone onto being tested in practice, we have learned a great deal and may find opportunities to use this learning in the future.
  • Young adults in prison: From April 2018, we will begin an exercise to look at how dual designated establishments are operating and identifying any good practice. This will be helped by the secondment of a specialist in young adults from a voluntary sector mental health charity (which is also a member of the Transition to Adulthood alliance).”

In addition, some further highlights from recent weeks:

  • The National Police Chiefs’ Council is redefining ‘young people’ as up to age 25, and has produced a new strategy on policing 18-25 year olds;
  • HM Inspectorate of Prisons has announced it will now inspect prisons’ management of young adults (defined for the first time as 18-25, rather than 18-20);
  • Two thirds of Police and Crime Commissioners (30/42) have named young adults aged 18-25 as a priority group in their Police and Crime Plans, and several have developed specific young adult strategies;
  • The majority of Community Rehabilitation Companies (private probation services) have developed strategies for managing 18-25 year olds as a distinct group. Most recently Interserve (which operates across 7 English regions), which is rolling out the T2A training pack ‘Taking account of maturity: A practice guide for probation professionals’.