The Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008

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Youth Justice Legislation

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This chapter focuses on the recent changes to the Youth justice system, the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, the Crime and Security Act 2010 and the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012. The analysis of these acts will help in assessing the effectiveness of the youth justice legislation with the fundamental aim of reducing offending by children and youths in London.

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The Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008

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The Act made makes fundamental changes in various aspects of Wales and England’s criminal justice system. It transforms the law that relates to early release of prisoners to curb the problem of overcrowding in prisons and custodial sentences. The act also reduces the right of the officers in charge of prisons to take industrial actions and changes the law on deportation as it relates to foreign criminals. The Bill that generated this act was introduced into the House of Commons on the 26th of June, 2007.

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It set out the new powers regarding the manner in which violent and antisocial behavior ought to be dealt with, cleared decisions on sentencing and introduced a brand new sentence on children and young people. The Bill was seen as a critical component of the government’s commitment to delivering efficient and effective criminal justice system that rebalances the system to favour the majority of the people that are law-abiding. It reduces crime committed by young people and protects the general public.

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Over the 2006-07 sessions, the key areas of focus included taking care of the needs of victims and also tightening the processes of trial in the situations where the offender fails to appear in court for justifiable reasons. It also created new powers of dealing with violent and antisocial behaviours. Furthermore, it created a new offence to assist in dealing with pornography that gains popularity with the passing of time. The session also addressed the manner of making sentence decision clearer than they were before and addressing imbalances relating to overturning convictions and releasing offenders. Finally, it focused on the idea of bringing compensation for the wrongly convicted persons to match the compensation given to the crime victims.

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With regards to non-custodial sentencing, section 1 of the Act provides a very comprehensive list of the community referred to as youth rehabilitation orders. These orders are imposable to the offenders who are under the age of 18. The orders can be imposed in the cases where the offense committed cannot be imprisoned. This changed the old law where the criteria provided in the new Act was not deemed necessary. Section 11 of the Act focuses on adult offenders and provides that the orders cannot be imposed unless the offense can be imprisoned or the offender is duly fined without additional punishment. In section 35, the Act puts an extension on the availability of order referrals relating to sentences that rehabilitate the young offenders. In the previous law, the orders were only available to the first offenders and were passed on offenders with history of past convictions.

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The Act also has provisions for dangerous offenders. The Criminal Justice Act 2003 had introduced compulsory sentencing for sexual and violent offenders with judicial discretions that were significantly reduced. This in turn increased the life sentences and contributed to overcrowding in the prisons. This was a very big crisis that needed to be addressed urgently. As such, sections 13 and 17 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 brought a restoration of a proportion of discretion in judicial terms and imposed criteria that were stricter than the previous one with regards to imposing the sentences. Section 25 of the new Act gave provisions for the automatic early release of those prisoners that were serving extended sentences. This was opposed to the discretionary release initially by the Parole Board.

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The Act also had provisions touching on curfew. The law already had provisions on the power of the courts to impose curfews and the power to order a defendant to have an electronic tag for monitoring compliance. Section 21 introduced the power that enabled the courts imposing custodial sentences to demand half of the time the defendant was on curfew be counted as time served towards his sentence so long as the curfew was active for a minimum of 9 hours each day and monitored by the tag. This section came to active force and found application in 2008.

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The Act had provisions for obscene publications, a habit that was also gaining popularity among the young people. Section 71 increased the maximum sentence regarding the publication of obscene articles. This was meant to instill fear among those who have the bad habit of publishing such obscenities and reduce them substantially. Section 63 created a new offense that regarded the possession of extreme pornographic images. It described an image as extreme if it is disgusting, extremely offensive and is of obscene character. Where the act was life threatening the sentence could go for a maximum of three years while if it results to an injury of a person’s genitals, breasts or anus, the sentence could go for a period of 2 years. Section 64 does not include classified works. However, it does state that extracts arising from classified works are no exception where it is of a nature that must reasonably be assumed to have been extracted. The Act focuses on the issue of child pornography and defines indecent photographs in the 1978 Protection of Children’s Act. Section 72 of the Act does an amendment of the Sexual Offenses Act of 2003 to cover extraterritorial jurisdiction in regards to sexual offenses against children living overseas.

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Matters relating to hate crimes are also well provided for in the Act. Under section 74 and schedule 16, part 3A of the Public Order Act of 1986 is amended to cover hate crime legislation. This covers hatred against a group of persons that are defined through reference to sexual orientation. It does not matter whether this hatred is performed on persons of the same sex, opposite sex or even both.

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There are also provisions with regards to nuclear terrorism under section 75 and Schedule 17, which make very significant amendments to the 1983 Nuclear Material (Offences) Act. The section and schedule extends it to include extraterritorial jurisdiction and to increased the penalties previously imposed. It also creates brand new offences regarding nuclear terrorism that pertains to radioactive and nuclear materials, again, with extraterritorial jurisdiction.

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The Act also creates violent offender orders made by a magistrate’s court under its section 101. This is meant to control the violent offenders. They are also similar to the antisocial behaviour orders. The orders are very critical in protecting the public from the risks caused by violent harms from the offenders.

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The miscellaneous parts of the act touch on matters such as the early release of prisoners. Section 26 brought about the release date of the prisoners serving more than 4 years to be imposed before the 4th of April 2005. This did not apply to the prisoners serving life sentences. The intention was to reduce the crisis of prison overcrowding. Section 54 created an assumption that the hearing of an adult offender can continue without his presence in the event that he fails to attend a magistrate’s court.

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The Act does not fail to touch on antisocial behaviours exhibited by some children and many youths today. Section 118 created a new part to the Antisocial Behaviour Act of 2003. It permits the police and other local authorities to apply for a court order for residential premises known for persistent nuisance and noise. Section 119 created a new offense that causes disturbance and nuisance to a member of staff of the National Health Service. It is not subject to imprisonment but carries heavy fines. The Act also prohibits the prisons officers from striking as this may have detrimental effects to the committing of crime.

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In a nutshell, The Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 changes the Youth Justice system and addresses pertinent issues touching on them. It comprehensively addresses the criminal activities associated with the young people and imposes orders and penalties. This gives the courts the direction and authority to deal with the cases appropriately and conveniently. It effectively succeeds in reducing the cases of criminal youth offenders in London and gives a sense of direction to the judicial system. Furthermore, it curtails the right of the prison officers to organize any industrial action that may further injure the justice system.

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The Crime and Security Act 2010

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The Crime and Security Act 2010 came about as a result of agreement between both the houses of parliament. It received the Royal Assent in April 2010 and is now an Act of parliament. The Bill contains a range of issues touching on the youths and seeking to reduce the rate at which they commit crimes. These issues are related to security matters, policing and crime.

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It reduces the information requirements regarding police searches and stops. This is very crucial in reducing crimes committed by many who would not wish to be stopped and searched. As such, it makes the prospective youth criminals fear being searched and found very easily. Essentially, this contributes to the reduction of the crime rates especially among the antisocial and disturbing youth population.

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The Act also establishes redefined time limits regarding the retention of DNA samples, profiles and fingerprints. This was as a result of the European Court of Human Rights Judgment. It extends the circumstances in which samples can be collected. This is important and cuts on both sides of justice. Keeping the samples for too long may have injurious effects on both the defendant and victims. Sometimes, one is innocent and keeping his fingerprints for long may result into emotional torture. Setting the timelines implies providing timely justice to both the parties involved. Initially there were no timelines for keeping the samples and criminals would commit their crimes knowing that they would not be brought to book. Things changed and now this is a notion of the past.

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The Act introduces new Domestic Violence Protection Notice, through which a senior police officer may require s suspect to stop molesting a victim and leave the premises pending court application. This is also very critical as it eliminates the conventional delays in the justice systems. The youth offenders who molest victims can no longer practice that for long because the court delays are not there anymore. Their antisocial and criminal behaviours can now be stopped way before the case is heard and a determination made on their innocence or guilt. In this way, the Act serves to reduce the rate at which both young people and adults commit crimes.

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Moreover, the Act extends new injunctions aimed at preventing the gang related violence associated with the young people under the age of 18. Before the introduction and assent to this Bill, the law was relaxed on such injunctions and young people could commit such heinous crimes and get away with them. Times have changed and this cannot happen any longer. The Crime and Security Act 2010 has changed the events following such crimes and the perpetrators are wary of committing them.

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The Act strengthens the assumption of a court making parenting order where children between 10 and 15 are convicted for antisocial behaviours. This has gone a long way in curtailing the rate at which the young people commit crimes or conduct themselves in antisocial manner. Furthermore, it makes the parents play their role effectively in disciplining their children and preparing them to be useful and law abiding members of the society. Before its inception, there were many instances where children could exhibit antisocial conduct and nothing could be done to correct them. This is because the law was effectively silent in regards to the issue. However, with the establishment of the Crime and Security Act 2010, positive outcomes have been realized and more seem to be on the way.

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The Crime and Security Act 2010 also introduces new criminal offence of possessing mobile phones by prisoners. Now, more than ever before, the young people know that their freedoms will be curtailed in the prison, thus fear behaving in a manner that will land them there. When they are allowed to own weapons in prison, they feel comfortable in that they are still able to communicate with their friends and accomplishes in crime. Limiting their rights to own mobile phones while in prison is welcome news and one that should be encouraged at all costs. This is because of its impact of reducing crime by ensuring that criminals do not communicate with their colleagues in crime.

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The Crime and Security Act 2010 introduces new offenses of allowing minors to access air weapons. This provision was strategically thought as minors become more aware and the awareness may be dangerous to their life and that of the society. Curtailing the right of young people to possess air weapons serves to reduce crimes that would be committed with such weapons. Minors can sometimes fail to reason maturely and use the weapons to commit crimes. Accordingly, the Act does well in curtailing such rights and bringing down the rate of crime by the minors.

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The Crime and Security Act 2010 has, therefore, generated a lot of success with respect to reducing the crimes committed by the minors. Its provisions should never be regretted, but embraced by the members of the society so as to continue fighting criminal and antisocial conduct of the young people. The Act has broken the silence of the law on how to go about conducting cases relating to criminal activities of young people. It has also eliminated the laxity with which these cases were initially handled. This is through providing the security measures, and policing issues.

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Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012

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The legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 refers to a statute of the UK Parliament that created reforms to the justice system. The Bill leading to the Act was introduced to the House of Commons on June 21, 2011 and received the Royal Assent on May 1, 2012. The Bill covered a wide range of issues that serve towards the reduction of criminal activities of the children and young people.

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Under Access to Justice Act 1999, the Act reverses the position in which the civil legal aid is made available for matters not specifically excluded. It specifies the type of cases for which aid is available. This is very important with regards to the practice and habit where young people deliberately commit crimes expecting to receive legal aid. When the cases are not specified and legal aid is available for any crime, young people are encouraged to engage in criminal activities since there is help in form of aid in the resulting legal battle. The act also abolished the Legal Services Commission after establishing that it was not very effective.

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The Act makes changes to the provisions regarding sentencing including providing the courts with the duty, not power, to make a consideration in compensating orders where victims have suffered loss or harm. This reduces the very lengthy and detailed requirements on the courts regarding reasons for sentencing. This also allowed the courts to suspend the sentences for a maximum period of one year rather than the traditional two years. The Act also amended the power of the court to suspend the sentence.

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Again in an attempt to curb the criminal activities by both young and old men and women, the Act introduced new powers to enable the courts impose curfews for more hours. Before the Act, curfews would be imposed for just few hours in a day. This was increased by the Act as some hard core criminals did not feel the impact of just few hours. Moreover, initially the curfews could be imposed for a maximum period of six months. This also changed to 12 months. This was indeed a step to tightening the grip on criminals, thereby contributing significantly to the reduction of crime rates.

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The changes made also repealed the provisions in the Criminal Justice Act 2003 increasing the maximum sentence imposed by a magistrate’s court from six months to one year. This was a step towards curbing crime and curtailing the antisocial and criminal activities of young people. Furthermore, it changed the law on bail and remand. This reduced the number of the people who were unnecessarily remanded into custody.

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The Act provided for the people under the age of 18 to be remanded under the local authority accommodation. It also amended the provisions relating to the release and recall of prisoners. All these aimed at reducing the rate at which both young and old people commit crimes in the UK. The effort has succeeded a great deal in reducing the rate of crimes among children and the youth.

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The Act gave new powers to the Secretary of state the powers to make prison rules about employment, remuneration and deduction of the prisoners’ pay. The intention of the provision is that the prisoners should make payments to support the victims of the crime they committed. This clearly creates awareness among the prospective criminals that they would be brought to book and pay for the crimes they commit. This works towards making them shy away from committing such crimes.

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The Act introduced a new offence regarding threatening with offensive weapons or article with a blade or point, which creates a risk of serious physical harm. This is necessary in order to curtail people from inflicting harm to others. The provision sets a minimum sentence of months imprisons to the offenders. Initially, this was not the case and offenders could cause such harm to the members of the society without being questioned. They would commit such crimes and get scot free. This changed with the Royal Assent to the Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012.

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In a nutshell, the Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 provided the courts with a greater discretion to issue discharges for the young persons who plead guilty. It also expanded the Youth Rehabilitation Orders providing for longer curfew hours than previously set. It increased the maximum fines for breaches and gave the courts the power issue an order for a supervision period rather than custody after the breach. This Act also became effective in reducing the crime rates by removing the financial support for many cases involving welfare, housing, employment, medical negligence, immigration and debt. This was a major step towards reminding the criminals that they were personally responsible for their crimes and no support would be given to them in terms of legal aid whatsoever.

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Conclusion

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From the foregoing, the three Acts have brought fundamental transformation to the UK judicial system and changed the youth Justice system. They have contributed significantly towards the reduction of crime rates among children and the youth. The youth justice legislation system has been strengthened greatly by the Acts. The young people in London can no longer commit crimes and expect to be treated kindly. Gone are the days when people would receive legal aids after committing serious crimes, thanks to the Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012. The formerly crime-friendly environment has changed to become unbearable to the youths with intentions of committing crimes. The Acts are very comprehensive in the manner of their coverage of the aspects of crime. They do not leave out a single aspect. London has prospects of breeding youths who have no criminal mindsets. Faithful implementation of these Acts is the beginning of realizing a crime free UK in general and London in particular.

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GREAT BRITAIN. (2011). Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill. HC Bill 205. HC Bill 205. London, Stationery Office.

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GREAT BRITAIN. (2013). Fifteenth report of session 2012-13: drawing special attention to : Iraq (United Nations Sanctions) (Overseas Territories) (Amendment) Order 2012 (S.I. 2012/2748); Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (Children Act 1989) (Children Remanded to Youth Detention Accommodation) Regulations 2012 (S.I. 2012/2813); Customs (Inspections by Her Majesty’s Inspectors of Constabulary and the Scottish Inspectors) Regulations 2012 (S.I. 2012/2840); Oil Stocking Order 2012 (S.I. 2012/2862). London, Stationery Office.

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