Reflecting Developmental Immaturity v. Applying a ‘Youth Discount’ in Sentencing Drug Supply and other Serious Crime

Published date01 April 2020
Date01 April 2020
Subject MatterLegal Commentary
Youth Justice
2020, Vol. 20(1-2) 159 –169
© The Author(s) 2020
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/1473225420911222
Reflecting Developmental
Immaturity v. Applying a ‘Youth
Discount’ in Sentencing Drug
Supply and other Serious Crime
Nigel Stone
Previous Commentaries (e.g. Stone, 2017, 2019a, 2019c) have variously sought to scruti-
nise the application in appellate practice of the Sentencing Council’s (SC, 2017) Definitive
Guideline on Sentencing Children and Young People, taking effect for sentencing pur-
poses from 01 June 2017, irrespective of date of offence. To recap briefly, the Guideline
identified the following general sentencing principles for youth justice (here in précis
from Section 1):
While the seriousness of the offence will be the starting point, the approach to sen-
tencing should be individualistic and focused on the child or young person, as
opposed to offence-focused. . . . the sentence should focus on rehabilitation where
Sentencers should also consider the effect the sentence is likely to have on the child
or young person (both positive and negative), as well as any underlying factors
contributing to the offending behaviour.
It is important to bear in mind any factors that may diminish culpability. Young
defendants are not fully developed and they have not attained full maturity. This can
impact on their decision-making and risk-taking behaviour. Their conduct may
have been affected by inexperience, emotional volatility or negative influences.
They may not fully appreciate the effect their actions can have on other people and
may not be capable of fully understanding the distress and pain they cause to their
victims. Peer pressure and other external influences and changes taking place dur-
ing adolescence can lead to experimentation, resulting in criminal behaviour.
Emotional and developmental age is of at least equal importance to their chrono-
logical age (if not greater).
Corresponding author:
Nigel Stone, School of Psychology, University of East Anglia, Lawrence Stenhouse Building, Norwich NR4 7TJ, UK.
911222YJJ0010.1177/1473225420911222Youth JusticeStone
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