Damaging time lag in youth justice cases

Youth criminal cases took ​around six months to complete on average in Greater Manchester last year, new figures reveal.
Wigan and Leigh Magistrates CourtWigan and Leigh Magistrates Court
Wigan and Leigh Magistrates Court

The Magistrates Association says a sluggish criminal justice system is damaging to vulnerable young offenders and victims, as case times hit a record high across England and Wales.

Ministry of Justice data shows it took the average young offender in the Greater Manchester local justice area 184 days from committing their offence to the final decision at court in 2018-19.

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Comparable data for previous years was not available, but nationally the average case time hit 154 days – the longest since national records began in 2010-11.

John Bache, national chairman of the Magistrates Association, said more cash is needed for all areas of the system so justice can be administered swiftly and fairly.

“Delays in any part of the justice system are a cause for concern, but particularly in youth justice where they have an especially damaging impact on vulnerable children, young people and victims,” he added. “It is especially concerning if delays lead to young people who commit crimes being tried in an adult court, if they turn 18 by the time their case comes to court.”

Across England and Wales, the largest increase in youth criminal case times was in the average number of days between an offender committing a crime and being charged.

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Aika Stephenson, legal director of Just for Kids Law, said this was partly due to police forces’ increasing use of the release under investigation process, whereby a suspect is released under caution without charge, rather than being bailed. She said this has led to charged and bail cases being prioritised by the police and other services.