Practice and Procedure

R (On the application of C) v BALHAM YOUTH COURT (2003)

PUBLISHED May 22, 2003

It had not been open to the youth court to decline jurisdiction to hear the applicant's case and to commit him for trial at the Crown Court as there was no real possibility that a sentence approaching two years' custody would be passed.Application for judicial review of the decision of Balham Youth Court ('the youth court') on 18 December 2002 to decline jurisdiction and commit the applicant ('C') for trial at the Crown Court. C was 14 years old and was accused of attempted robbery. It was alleged that he, together with another, had attempted to rob a girl ('V') of the same age of a mobile telephone and a bag together with its contents. V's hair had been pulled and there was an attempt to grab her bag. The bag's strap broke, however, and V escaped. As C was under 15, a detention and training order was not available to the youth court. The youth court committed C for trial at the Crown Court but gave no reasons for its decision. The notes of the youth court's clerk, however, indicated that a custodial sentence would be appropriate. On the present application C argued that: (i) the test as to whether an offender should be committed was whether there was a real possibility that a sentence under s.91(3) Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 would be passed by the Crown Court; (ii) in reliance on R v Southampton Youth Court, ex parte W (2002) Crim LR 750, whilst there was no statutory prohibition against such a sentence being less than two years, in practice the use of s.91(3) of the 2000 Act was reserved for serious cases where a sentence of two years or more would be appropriate; and (iii) the factual matrix of the instant case was such that a sentence of that nature would not be passed.HELD: (1) The youth court had erred in declining jurisdiction. (2) Save for exceptional circumstances, sentences under s.91 were usually appropriate where an offence would attract a custodial sentence of two years or more. (3) It was only rarely that cases involving a person under 15 years old would attract a sentence under s.91. (3) There were no special circumstances in the present case that would justify the imposition of a custodial sentence of two years or more. (4) Moreover, the youth court would have accepted jurisdiction if it had applied the right test. (5) It would be a useful discipline for the youth court, when it declined jurisdiction, to give reasons for so doing. There would then be a better prospect that it would consider and apply the appropriate legal test.Application allowed. Remitted to youth court for trial.

[2003] EWHC 1332 (Admin)