The new Code was launched by outgoing DPP, Alison Saunders and came into force on Friday 26 October 2018.
The ICCA supports the proposal that prosecuting and defending children and young people in the criminal justice system should be a specialism.
At the Public Interest Stage of the Full Code Test, prosecutors are specifically required to consider the age and maturity of a suspect at the time of the offence. It is therefore welcome news that the best interests and welfare of a child or young person should be considered along with any adverse impact a prosecution may have on their future.
Prosecutors are reminded in the revised Code of their obligations under the UN 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child and the aim of the youth justice system to prevent offending. With this in mind, prosecutors must consider maturity as well as chronological age.
There is a growing body of work referenced in an excellent article by Shauneen Lambe for the International Association of Youth and Family Judges and Magistrates suggesting that young people continue to mature well into their 20’s. The new Code for Prosecutors reinforces the principle that, the younger the suspect, the less likely a prosecution is appropriate. The Code points out that there will still be circumstances, notwithstanding age or maturity, where the public interest requires a prosecution including where the offence is serious; where the suspect has a bad record of offending and there are no suitable alternatives to prosecution and where an out of court disposal is not available.