Young Adults in Court: Developing a Tailored Approach
"The Transition to Adulthood (T2A) Alliance, a coalition of criminal justice, health and youth organisations, has helped to establish a growing consensus that criminal justice system responses to the behaviour of young adults should reflect their variable developmental maturity and make allowances for their specific age-related needs. This consensus is underpinned by research on brain development in young adulthood suggesting that impulse control, reasoning, and decision-making capacities are in formation through the mid-20s.
Aspects of justice system practice in England and Wales have adjusted in recognition of this evidence. Adult sentencing decisions have, since 2011, included maturity as a mitigating factor. From 2013, the Crown Prosecution Service began taking maturity into account as part of its public interest test. However, the allocation of people within the court system continues to be driven purely by the chronological age of the defendant. The separation into youth and adult courts was established with the Children Act 1908, recognising that children and young people needed to be treated differently from adults. We now know that young adults are a developmentally distinct population. A chronological split between jurisdictions based on Edwardian evidence no longer reflects contemporary understanding of the evidence base."