general guideline - Age and/or lack of maturity

Age and/or lack of maturity can affect:

  • the offender’s responsibility for the offence and
  • the effect of the sentence on the offender.

Either or both of these considerations may justify a reduction in the sentence.

The emotional and developmental age of an offender is of at least equal importance to their chronological age (if not greater). 

In particular young adults may still be developing neurologically and consequently be less able to:

  • evaluate the consequences of their actions
  • limit impulsivity
  • limit risk taking

Young adults are likely to be susceptible to peer pressure and are more likely to take risks or behave impulsively when in company with their peers.

Environment plays a role in neurological development and factors such as childhood deprivation or abuse will affect development.

An immature offender may find it more difficult to cope with custody or to complete a community order.

There is a greater capacity for change in immature offenders and they may be receptive to opportunities to address their offending behaviour and change their conduct.

When considering a custodial or community sentence for a young adult the Probation Service should address these issues in a PSR.