Monday 12 August 2013 by Catherine Baksi
All prosecutors, defence lawyers and police should be given training about assessing the maturity of offenders to ensure that young adults are dealt with appropriately by the criminal justice system, a charity has concluded in a report published today.
The Criminal Justice Alliance acknowledged the growing recognition of the importance of maturity as a factor in committing crime, particularly for the young adult group. The new Code for Crown Prosecutors makes explicit reference to maturity when determining the public interest test.
But following interviews and a roundtable discussion with relevant professionals, the CJA found that while 'a number' of prosecutors, police officers and defence lawyers are familiar with the issue of maturity, 'many are not'.
The study suggested guidance should be developed on the meaning of maturity, to ensure consistency among prosecutors. It found 'significant' barriers to sharing information about a suspect's maturity before they are charged, and recommended that protocols be developed between the police, CPS and other local agencies to gather and share such information.
The report also recommended better use of conditional cautions and referrals to support services.
The CJA said a 'disproportionate' number of young adults between 16 and 24 become involved in the criminal justice system, but they are also the group most likely to desist and 'grow out of crime', making it particularly important that maturity issues are understood.