should young offenders be treated the same as adult offenders (cons of…
should young offenders be treated the same as adult offenders
different types of sentences
a prison sentence
a court fine
a community sentence - eg. a curfew, unpaid work or going on a drug treatment programme
a suspended prison sentence
the offender serves their sentence in the community, but if they commit another crime they will usually be sent to prison
the judge needs to consider:
punish the offender
protect the public
get the offender to make up for the crime
change the offenders behaviour
cut crimes in the future
cons of trying children as adults
it reduces the number of options that are available for sentencing
it does not always reflect a measure of culpability
it creates an element of risk for the child while they are in prison
it is a process that seems to dis-proportionally target minority demographics
it creates more opportunities for youth to become repeat offenders
it does not usually offer an opportunity for rehabilitation
it creates a lifetime of effects for the child in question
it does not reflect the understanding of the child in question
it can eliminate civil responsibilities for actions at the household level
it does not provide them with youth specific services
it does not take into account the maturity of the child
it prevents a child from having a fresh start even after they make necessary changed
pros of trying juveniles as adults
it treats teens who are almost adults as part of the adult system for the purpose of justice
it can offer services to the youth that would not be available in the juvenile system
it creates a level if certainty in the justice system for victims
it treats severe crimes with the seriousness that they deserve
it provides the community with an opportunity to have a say in the process
it reduces the chance that a repeat offender will commit multiple severe crimes
it provides a measure of consistency for the severity of the crime
it offers a suitable penalty for severe crimes that some juveniles commit
it provides a way to teach accountability
brain development and the teenage brain
frontal cortex in humans’ brains does not fully develop until later in life.
The frontal cortex is the part of the brain that controls impulsive behavior and reasoning. Our frontal cortex helps us think about the consequences of our actions before we take them.
Many people’s frontal cortexes do not fully develop until well into adulthood. This means that many teenagers make reckless decisions because of their lack of brain development.
teenagers are more likely than adults to:
Engage in risky or dangerous behavior.
Get into physical or verbal fights.
Get into accidents, such as car accidents.
Misread the emotions of others and social cues.
Some teens can get into trouble due to poor decision-making that is a result of their undeveloped brains. While teenagers are not mindless drones with no control over their actions or thought processes, judges will take into account the fact that impulsive behavior is something that most teens grow out of.
determine appropriate punishments. these punishments might include:
Anger management classes.
Brain development continues well into adulthood for most people, and every person is different. Some reach brain maturity at age 16, while others won’t reach it until they are 25 or 30. However, the United States government has determined that 18 is a reasonable average to start treating children like adults and having them take full responsibility for their actions.
When sentencing a young offender, the court considers the main aim of the youth justice system – the prevention of offending by children and young people. It also considers the welfare of the child.
things that affect the sentence given to a young person include :
their age and maturity;
the seriousness of the offence;
their family circumstances;
any previous offending history;
whether they admitted the offence.
THE IRISH TIMES : Thu, Oct 24, 2019
The Children Act 2001 defines the age of criminal responsibility as 12 years old, meaning no child under that age can be charged with an offence. There are exceptions to this, however, such as in cases of suspected rape or murder. In such cases children age 10 and 11 can be charged with an offence.
In all cases where a child is under 14 years old gardaí (the state police force of the Republic of Ireland.) must obtain the permission of the Director of Public Prosecutions before proceeding with a charge.
In the vast majority of cases, juvenile crimes are dealt with in the Children’s Court. This is a branch of the District Court, meaning trials are conducted by a judge without a jury, and the maximum sentence on any one crime is 12 months.
In Dublin there is a dedicated Children’s Court complex in Smithfield Square, while elsewhere in the country the local District Court usually sets aside a few days a month to deal with juvenile cases.
The hearings tend to be more informal than in adult courts, with the judge often personally addressing the child and warning them in gentle but firm tones of the consequences if they continue to offend.
Access to the court is high restricted, especially in the Dublin complex. Lawyers, gardaí and the child’s parents or guardians are usually the only ones allowed in, along with a small number of accredited journalists.
not all cases remain in the Children’s Court. Serious charges, such as homicide offences, are sent forward to either the Circuit or Central Criminal Courts. Here the children are effectively tried as adults before a judge and jury, although access to the court is still restricted
If convicted the courts have much wider sentencing powers, but the use of prison as a last resort still applies.
Whether they are dealt with in the Children’s Court or otherwise, it is an offence to identify any child defendant. This includes publishing any identifying features such as their school or family details.
The same rules that apply for the press also apply to social media. Judges in such cases now regularly remind the public that naming a child defendant online is a contempt of court.
Some offences carry mandatory sentences. Murder carries a mandatory life sentence, while possession of large amounts of drugs is punishable by a presumptive mandatory minimum of 10 years.
The Children’s Act is silent on mandatory sentences, but the legal consensus is they don’t apply to children even in cases of murder.
Judges can sentence a child to life imprisonment but it is not required. For example, in 2005 Mr Justice Barry White sentenced a 15-year-old boy to life imprisonment for murder, but ordered the sentence be brought before him again in a decade for review. In 2014 he reviewed the sentence, and set a release date for 2016. This approach to sentencing was appealed by both the child and the DPP, but the Appeal Court ruled it was appropriate.