The following are some examples of why it is so important for a young person (under the age of 18) to be legally represented:
The police station is a daunting experience for anyone, let alone a young person, who may have never been arrested before. Whilst everyone under the age of 17 is required to have an "appropriate adult" with them at the police station when being interviewed, such a person is usually a relative or family friend of the young person with no legal experience whatsoever. Sometimes an "appropriate adult" whilst acting in a supportive role, may do or say something, which could be damaging to the young person. It is, therefore, crucial that the young person has a legally trained and experienced adviser at the police station.
The law is complicated. Young people and their families need to have the relevant legal aspects of the case explained clearly to them both at the police station and subsequently should the matter proceed to trial. A failure to do so could result in a lack of understanding and a subsequent "wrong" conviction.
A conviction for a young person could have far-reaching implications for their future, such as their schooling, university placement, career development and work prospects. Therefore, even if the young person is convicted of a criminal offence, the sentencing outcome could be of considerable importance.
A period in detention for a first-time youth offender can have a dramatic and far-reaching outcome. There is no doubt that young people are greatly influenced by their peers. Serving a custodial sentence alongside experienced youth offenders is likely to have a negative impact.
For that reason, only a legal adviser experienced in the field of youth crime should represent a young person.
The Government is becoming increasingly "tough" when enacting laws for dealing with youth crime, which affects not only the youth defendant but also their parents. One such recent example is that of the mother who received a prison sentence for failing to prevent her daughter from playing truant from school. This is a very different situation to that involving an adult defendant, where there is no such power to "sentence" the defendant's family.
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