This appeal has generated a number of lessons to be learned when sentencing children and young people, especially when they have been tried together with older co-accused, as the appellant was here. An entirely different approach to sentence is required than that which courts routinely apply to adult offenders. We suggest the following as a checklist for counsel and courts undertaking what are invariably complex and difficult sentencing exercises:
(1) Court listing should ensure that there is sufficient time for the judge, even if that judge heard the trial and knows the case well, to read and consider all reports and to prepare sentencing remarks in age-appropriate language.
(2) Consideration should be given to listing separately, and as a priority, the sentence of any child(ren) or young person(s) jointly convicted with adult co-defendants.
(3) The courtroom should be set up and arranged to ensure that the child or young person to be sentenced is treated appropriately, namely as a vulnerable defendant entitled to proper support. So far as possible the judge should be seated on a level with the child or young person, and the latter should be able to sit near to counsel, with parental or other support seated next to them (see further below).
(4) Counsel must expect to submit full sentencing notes identifying all relevant Sentencing Council Guidelines, in particular any youth-specific guideline(s), addressing material considerations in an individualistic way for each defendant separately (if more than one young defendant is to be sentenced). Where an individualistic approach is mandated, as it is for a child or young person, a note which addresses all defendants compendiously risks missing important distinctions. These notes should be uploaded well in advance of the sentencing hearing.
(5) The contents of the Youth Justice Service pre-sentence report and any medical/psychiatric/psychological reports will be key. Courts should consider these reports bearing in mind the general principles at section 1 of the overarching youth guideline, together with any youth-specific offence guideline, carefully working through each.
(6) In general it will not be helpful to go straight to paragraph 6.46 of the overarching youth guideline without having first directed the court to general principles canvassed earlier in that guideline, as well as to any youth-specific guideline. The stepped approach in the overarching youth guideline and any youth-specific offence guideline should be followed. Working through the guideline(s) in this way will enable the court to arrive at the most appropriate sentence for the particular child or young person, bearing in mind their individual circumstances together with the dual aims of youth sentencing.
(7) If the court considers that the offence(s) is(are) so serious as to pass the custody threshold, the court must consider whether a YRO with ISS can be imposed instead. If it cannot, then the court must explain why.