Timely Justice: Turning 18

A new report by the Youth Justice Legal Centre (YJLC), part of Just for Kids Law, has revealed that severe delays in the criminal justice system are leaving children, families and victims in limbo, resulting in serious consequences for those who turn 18. 

System delay is the main reason children turn 18 years old between the commission of an offence and prosecution. The coronavirus crisis has exacerbated delays throughout the criminal justice system and the impact on children approaching their 18th birthday will be grave. The most recent official data shows that 1,400 offences a year are committed by children who turn 18 prior to conviction but this is a significant underestimate and the number is expected to rise.

Our briefing, Timely Justice: Turning 18, analyses the inequities that arise for children who turn 18 between offence and prosecution and makes proposals for policy and practice reform. We are calling for timely justice for those who commit offences as children. We recommend that where this is not possible the same sentencing framework should be applied to all those who offend in childhood. We also recommend a time limit of three months for which a child can be subject to release under investigation. We have identified an urgent need to collect and regularly publish accurate data on children who are released under investigation and those who commit offences but turn 18 prior to conviction. YJLC has also developed a legal guide to help lawyers navigate the different rules, regimes and principles which apply to those turning 18 in the criminal justice system.