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Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012

Youth cautions
Section 135 and Schedule 24: Youth cautions

734.Section 65 and 66 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 (“the 1998 Act”) created a system of reprimands and warnings known as the Final Warning Scheme. These are out of court disposals for young offenders for use where prosecution is not in the public interest.

735.Subsection (1) of section 135 repeals sections 65 and 66 of the 1998 Act abolishing the Final Warning Scheme.

736.Subsection (2) inserts new section 66ZA, which creates a new ‘youth caution’, and new section 66ZB, which sets out the effect of the new youth caution.

737.New section 66ZA does the following:

738.New subsection (1) sets out the circumstances in which a constable may give a young person a youth caution. They are broadly the same as those in which a warning or reprimand can currently be given. However, unlike reprimands and warnings which cannot be offered if a young person has previously been convicted of an offence or given a youth conditional caution, the new youth caution contains no such restriction. This mirrors changes made to youth conditional cautions (see section 137).

739.New subsection (1)(a) provides that to issue a youth caution the constable must decide that there is sufficient evidence to charge the young person with an offence. The effect of the test is the same as for issuing a reprimand or warning but the wording has been amended for consistency with the requirement for conditional cautions and youth conditional cautions.

740.New subsections (2) to (7) replicate relevant provision from section 65 of the 1998 Act on reprimands and warnings. This includes provision:

  • requiring appropriate adults to be present when persons under 17 are given a youth caution,

  • requiring the effect of receiving a youth caution to be explained to the person given the caution,

  • for the publication of guidance by the Secretary of State, and

  • preventing cautions, other than youth cautions and youth conditional cautions, from being given to children and young people.

741.New section 66ZB does the following:

742.New subsection (1) provides that if a young person receives a youth caution then the police must refer them to the appropriate youth offending team as soon as is practicable. The purpose of this is to ensure that the youth offending team has complete records of the young person’s involvement with the police and so that they can be considered for assessment, upon receiving a first or subsequent youth caution. Under section 66 of the 1998 Act this was only required for warnings, not reprimands.

743.New subsections (2) and (3) provide the power for the youth offending team to assess a young person and put in place a rehabilitation programme, where a young person receives a youth caution and they consider this appropriate. It also places a duty on the youth offending team to assess a young person if they receive a second or subsequent referral under subsection (1). Following this assessment, the youth offending team should put in place a rehabilitation programme to prevent further offending unless this is deemed inappropriate. This subsection broadly mirrors the threshold for assessment and intervention that existed for reprimands and warnings.

744.New subsection (4) replicates section 66(3) of the 1998 Act by making provision for the Secretary of State to publish guidance setting out what should be included in any rehabilitation programme and the steps that will need to be taken if the offender fails to participate in these programmes.

745.New subsections (5) and (6) provide that, save for in exceptional circumstances, a court may not conditionally discharge an offender if they have been given a youth caution in the two years preceding the commission of the offence for which they are being sentenced (unless that youth caution was the offender’s first and only caution). Where the court is of the opinion that exceptional circumstances are present it must state in open court why it is of that opinion.

746.New subsection (7) replicates section 66(5) of the 1998 Act by making provision that where a young person has received a youth caution and has failed to participate in a rehabilitation programme provided as part of that caution, this may be cited in court in any subsequent criminal proceedings involving that person in the same way that a prior conviction would be.

747.Subsection (5) of section 135 provides that any reprimand or warning given to a person prior to the commencement of this section will subsequently be considered a youth caution for the purposes of the Act. For example a reprimand would be considered a first youth caution for the purposes of determining whether there was a duty on the youth offending team to assess a young person under section 66ZB(2), if they were subsequently to be given a youth caution following the commencement of the Act.

748.Subsections (6) and (7) of section 135 ensure that a referral and rehabilitation programme provided under section 66 of the 1998 Act before the commencement of this section is to be treated as equivalent to a rehabilitation programme provided under section 66ZB of that Act.

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