The Youth Court, formerly known as the Juvenile Court, deals with criminal cases involving offenders under the age of 18. The court, which was established in 1994, comprises a Magistrate and two members of a panel known as the Youth Court Panel, one of whom must be a woman.
While the Youth Court has a variety of sentencing options in dealing with young offenders and to discourage offending, no person under the age of 21 years can be sentenced to a term of imprisonment.
The Youth Court has the same powers as are vested in the Magistrate’s Court and hears charges against persons under the age of 18, subject to certain statutory exceptions where the case is either required to be heard or may be heard by the Magistrate’s Court.
Generally speaking, where the Magistrate has heard a case involving a person under the age of 18 and that person has either pleaded or been found guilty, the Magistrate may remand the defendant to the Youth Court for sentencing, provided the person was under the age of 18 at the date of conviction.
The Youth Court consists of the Magistrate (chair) and two Youth Court Panel members, one of whom has to be a woman. Panel members are under 60 years old and are appointed by the Superior Number of the Royal Court. A Panel Member can serve for a maximum of 10 years.
The Youth Court sits on a Tuesday in a special Court and separate room at the Magistrate’s Court Building. The only persons permitted by law to be present at a sitting of the Youth Court are–
- Members and officers of the court
- Parties to the case before the court, their advocates and solicitors, and witnesses and other persons directly concerned in that case
- Bona fide representatives of newspapers, news agencies or sound or television broadcasting companies
- Such other persons as the court may specially authorise to be present.
Statutory restriction of sentencing
The sentencing ethos of the Court with regard to young offenders is, wherever possible, to impose sentences designed to rehabilitate the young person. In addition, the Criminal Justice (Young Offenders) (Jersey) Law 1994 contains specific restrictions on sentences that may be imposed on young offenders – Article 3 of the Law states that no court can pass a sentence of imprisonment on a person under the age of 21 or a sentence of Borstal training.
The Court may impose a sentence of Youth Detention on offenders from 16 to 20, but only if the Court considers that no other method of dealing with the person is appropriate because it appears to the court that:
- The person has a history of failure to respond to non-custodial penalties and is unable or unwilling to respond to them
- Only a custodial sentence would be adequate to protect the public from serious harm from the person
- The offence or the totality of the offending is so serious that a non-custodial sentence cannot be justified
The Court is also required to state in open court its reasons for imposing a sentence of youth detention and to explain to the person that on release they may be subject to a period of supervision after release.
The Law provides that where a person who has been sentenced to a term of youth detention of four months or more is released from custody they must be under the supervision of a supervisor (a Probation Officer or Children’s Officer)