Irish Penal Reform Trust

The brain does not fully develop until age 25 – Scottish Sentencing Council.

26th February 2020

According to a literature review undertaken by the University of Edinburgh on behalf of the Scottish Sentencing Council, judicial sentencing should take account of persuasive evidence that the adolescent brain continues to mature into adulthood and does not reach full maturity until approximately 25-30 years of age. ‘The development of cognitive and emotional maturity in adolescents and its relevance in judicial contexts’, published in February 2020, found that the areas of the brain governing impulse control and cognitive abilities develop later than other areas, which may explain the increased risk-taking behaviour seen in young people.

Normal brain development may be further delayed by other factors such as adverse child experiences, mental illness, traumatic brain injury (TBI), and substance misuse. These factors tend to be overrepresented in young people appearing before the courts. The research finds that brain development should be an important consideration for the judiciary in sentencing as it affects the level of culpability a person can have for a particular offence.

You can access the full report here.

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