Irish Penal Reform Trust

Young Adults on Remand: A scoping study for T2A

1st February 2021

This new briefing conducted on behalf of Transition to Adulthood makes the case for a reform of remand arrangements for young adults (18-25) involved in the justice system in England and Wales.   

The briefing examines to what extent the specific developmental needs of young adults are taken into account by courts when making decisions about whether to remand defendants into custody. It also looks at the existing legal provisions which could be applied at the remand stage of criminal proceedings, and whether criminal justice agencies and courts think about the maturity of young adult defendants when making decisions about remanding them. 

Ultimately, interrupting a young adult’s development with a period in custody, including remand, should be a last resort.  

If young adults aren’t remanded in custody the report looks at what alternatives are available, particularly young women, and defendants with mental health problems. 

The report notes that, in 2018, almost 3,000 eighteen- to twenty-year-olds were remanded to prison before trial and 2,000 of those were held in custody between conviction and being sentenced. Numbers in the 21 to 25 age range are significantly higher although the published data does not enable them to be separately identified.

Specific data is not available about the extent to which young adults remanded to custody subsequently receive a custodial sentence. However, in the year ending March 2019, over two thirds of children under 18 remanded to youth detention accommodation did not subsequently receive a custodial sentence.

For children, the court must have regard to the welfare of the youth and thus, has a specific obligation to consider a bail application even if the court has already refused bail. However, for adults, repeated bail applications normally require a change of circumstance. There are no special considerations for young adults, who face the same procedures as other adults.
 

Recommendations

The report details five recommendations for developing and advocating for a strategy to make remand arrangements more suitable for dealing with the developing maturity of young adults:

  1. In addition to tightening the criteria for remands in custody for children, the forthcoming Sentencing Bill should introduce specific provisions which aim to reduce unnecessary custodial remands of young adults.
  2. The CPS and judiciary should incorporate a greater recognition of maturity factors in relevant guidance and courts should adapt their ways of working to ensure a fairer and distinct approach to young adults at the remand stage.
  3. Strategies should be drawn up to ensure sufficient services are available to support young adults on bail, with consideration given to transferring budgetary responsibilities for young adult defendants to a more local level in order to stimulate measures for replacing some of the costly and damaging uses of custodial remand with community-based measures.
  4. More data should be collected and published to monitor bail and remand decision making in respect of young adults in order to inform efforts both to reduce custodial remands and the disproportionate application of such remands to Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic defendants.
     

Read Young Adults on Remand: A scoping study for T2A on the T2A website here.

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