Nicholas de la Poer secures quashing of unlawful sentence in a case with national implications for sentencing of youths

On 24 February 2016, Nicholas de la Poer appeared before a divisional court of the High Court, instructed by Keith Allen of ABR Solicitors, Leeds, in an appeal by way of case stated. The case related to a 17 year old youth who had been sentenced to 8 months detention and training (DTO) in circumstances where, had he been one year older, he could and would not have received more than 4 months imprisonment in a young offenders institution. The young man in question had originally been sentenced by the Youth Court to 8 months DTO and had tried, unsuccessfully, to appeal this sentence to the Crown Court.

The question in the appeal to the High Court was whether it is unlawful, notwithstanding that the operative youth sentencing regime technically allows for it, to sentence a youth to longer than an adult could and would receive in similar circumstances.

Lord Justice Simon and Mr Justice Leggatt held, agreeing with Keith and Nicholas’s argument, that it is unlawful to sentence youth defendants to longer than that which an adult could and would receive in similar circumstances. As a result this defendant’s sentence, which was twice that an adult could have received, was quashed by the Court.

The High Court remitted the case back to the Crown Court for determination of the correct sentence length in the light of the conclusions reached.

It is anticipated that as a result of this case the practice which has developed across the country of sentencing youths to longer than adults in certain cases will now change. That practice has arisen from remarks made in the course of the case of LCC v DPP [2001] EWHC 453 (Admin) which are cited in a number of practitioner text books as supporting the proposition that youths can be sentenced to longer periods in custody than adults in a similar situation. The High Court held that these remarks were obiter and do not reflect youth sentencing practice in 2015/16.

The written judgment of the High Court is not yet available, but will be linked here when published. In the meantime those with youth clients affected by this case should feel free to contact Nicholas or Keith Allen at ABR.

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