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Young Offenders and Presentencing Reports: A Criminological Perspective

NCJ Number
Acta Criminologica Volume: 18 Issue: 3 Dated: 2005 Pages: 1-19
J. Prinsloo
Date Published
19 pages
This paper argues that South African law, pursuant to the requirements of its Constitution and international instruments, should require that a presentence report be prepared for all offenders under 18 years old who go to trial.
At a minimum, a court should require that a presentence report be prepared by a probation and/or a correctional officer when a young offender has committed a serious offense; or has previous convictions; or when a sentence of imprisonment, including suspended imprisonment, is about to be imposed. Minor youthful offenders should be diverted from formal court processing and sentencing; however, if such a case should be retained for trial, a presentence investigation should be ordered to ensure that the offender is sentenced in accordance with South Africa's Constitution; international instruments; and the spirit of the Child Justice Bill, which is currently under consideration. Until such time as the Child Justice Bill becomes law, every young offender adjudicated in a court of law must have the benefit of a presentence report and follow up. This is required under the principle that the "best interests of the child" be served in all court deliberations. All relevant facts about the juvenile should be addressed in the presentence report, such as social and family background, school achievement, and health conditions. Assessments of the youth's social and psychological needs should also be conducted. The production of accurate and useful presentence reports requires that those who prepare them be trained in what is involved in preparing a proper presentence report that will assist the court in rendering an appropriate sentence. A 36-item bibliography