Assisting young people aged 16 and 17 in court

A toolkit for local authorities, the judiciary, court staff, police, Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service and service providers.

5. After Court

5.1. Where community sentence imposed

Young people should be seen by the court social worker and their defence agents to ensure that:

  • their disposal is explained to them and the requirements it will place on them;
  • where possible, initial appointments to see their allocated worker are made and the importance of attending these meetings explained; and
  • an explanation of any conditions placed on them by the judge is given, along with the consequences of breaching the conditions. Given the serious consequences of breaching conditions, it is important to ensure that the young people understand the explanation provided.

5.2. Where custodial sentence imposed (including secure care)

If the young person has been sentenced to secure care or custody, court social workers should ensure that an interview takes place before the young person leaves court to:

  • explain the disposal and what will happen next;
  • establish whether there are any vulnerabilities which should be conveyed to the prison estate or secure care unit; and
  • offer other support such as contacting family members.

Whether the young person has been given a community alternative or sentenced to secure care or custody, the court social worker should make their lead professional or appropriate social work office aware of the disposal. This allows for a 72 hour Looked After and Accommodated review to take place. [51] The court social worker should also ensure that the young person's single plan follows them from court.

5.3. Sharing information contained in background reports

In the event of a sentence of detention being imposed, court staff should ensure that the criminal justice social work report and any other background reports obtained on the young person go with them to the establishment.

5.4. Outstanding charges

In the event of a sentence of detention being imposed, defence agents should ascertain whether there are any outstanding cases in relation to the young person and liaise with the Procurator Fiscal to have these accelerated as quickly as possible (section 3.2.2 refers). Defence agents should likewise arrange with the Responsible Officer to have any pending community sentence breached or reviewed and brought back to court for sentence. Similarly defence agents should ascertain whether there are any outstanding fines, and if so liaise with the appropriate Fines Enforcement Officer with a view to having the alternative imposed. In exceptional circumstances, e.g. where there is no defence agent, social work can write to the Procurator Fiscal or the court, as appropriate, to follow these up.

5.5. Continuing supervision requirements

Where a young person has been given a custodial sentence by the court, this is not a reason to seek termination of supervision requirements at a children's hearing. The young person will have a complex transition to make back into their community that may require an extensive support package; this will be particularly relevant for short sentences that will end before the young person reaches age 18. Where a young person is subject to a supervision requirement and released following a short sentence, offences can be jointly reported allowing a children's hearing to deal with these, continuing a welfare based approach, where appropriate. Responsibility for the decision to terminate lies with children's panel members; a comprehensive need and risk assessment should therefore be provided to assist their decision making process.

5.6. Breaches of community sentence

Appendix 11 provides a summary of the community sentences available in Scotland. The specific penalties for breaching a community sentence vary in relation to the type of sentence, but in all cases the decision about what sanction to impose for breach rests with the court. These sanctions could include, for example, imposing a fine, varying the original order, revoking the original order and imposing any alternative disposal, including custody, which could have been imposed for the original offence, or revoking the original order and imposing a sentence of imprisonment for a term within statutory timescales.

As such the importance of complying with a community sentence should be communicated to a young person both at the time of sentence and during the lifetime of the order imposed. And, as at the point of sentence, it is also important that the court is in possession of as much information about the young person as possible, and is aware of all the options available to them bearing in mind the desire, where possible, to avoid custodial sentences for young people aged 16 and 17.

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