A small pilot project conducted by Dr Max Lowenstein will qualitatively investigate English youth sentencing remarks from those who predominantly produce them, i.e. District Judges and Magistrates.
Informed by the latest Ministry of Justice statistical trends, this research considers the sentencing of violent young offenders at a crucial stage, where custody is being considered as a last resort. Such sentencing remarks and the way they are communicated (expressed) matters, as they can inform suitable sentence selection and prevent future re-offending, (Home Office, 2001). Furthermore, they form part of the statutory duty to give reasons for and explain the effect of a sentence passed in Court (s. 174, Criminal Justice Act 2003).
This research will consider judicial expression through interviews with 20 youth court judges (10 District Judges/10 Magistrates) in the London region where custody use is high and the South West region where custody use is low. Indicative shared judicial perceptions (norms) regarding their sentencing remarks will be provided on the following:
- Scope/What, including which sources of sentencing guidance/principles matter, to whom communication is directed and the extent of influence
- Expression/How, considering positive to negative expressions and the measurement of impact on the offender or other courtroom actors
- Reasoning/Why, based on explanation, general attitude and moral communication, (Weijers, 2004).
The importance of continued judicial training on courtroom communication and the gathering of qualitative feedback matters, because it helps to promote effective sentence explanations and provides an understanding of court culture change over time, (Allen, Crow, Cavadino, 2000).
This research can help to provide an up to date indication as to whether the cost of training youth judges to understand effective communication has been effective or not. Furthermore, it can help to indicate how youth court culture is currently responding to the Youth Justice Board focus in 2013-14 of reducing re-offending, ensuring proportionate and effective punishment and expanding restorative justice, (Youth Justice Board, 2013).
Allen, C. , Crow, I. and Cavadino, M. (2000) Evaluation of the Youth Court Demonstration Project. Home Office Research Study 214. London, Home Office .
Home Office (2001) The Youth Court. The Changing Culture of the Youth Court. Good Practice Guide. London, Lord Chancellor’s Department .
Weijers, I. (2004) Requirements for Communication in the Courtroom: A Comparative Perspective on the Youth Court in England/Wales and The Netherlands. Youth Justice, 4(1) 22-31.
Youth Justice Board. (2013). Annual Report & Accounts 2012/13, HC 520, The Stationary Office: London.