n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - Young offenders and presentencing reports : a criminological perspective

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There is great uncertainty about when and under what circumstances there is a need for a presentence report prior to the sentencing of a young offender. To clear up this confusion, various judgements have addressed the matter. It emerged as a general rule that presentencing reports 'should' be obtained for all offenders under the age of 18 years. However, a court is obliged to obtain a presentence report if a young offender under the age of 18 years:

  1. has committed a serious offence, or
  2. has previous convictions, or
  3. when a sentence of imprisonment, including suspended imprisonment, is about to be imposed.
On the grounds of these criteria, an exclusive strategy is postulated. It can be concluded that, in the case of young offenders in particular who committed less serious offences and who have not yet been officially in conflict with the law, there is no need for a presentence report and the evidence of a probation officer.
The author argues that such a strategy makes no operational sense from a proactive point of view, while certain anomalies cast doubt on the instrumentality of such a practice. International juvenile justice instruments aim at the prevention of crime through the proper socialisation of children as an integral part of the administration of juvenile justice. This cannot be achieved without a proper presentence investigation that takes into account the totality of a child's offending behaviour as well as the interactional circumstances in which it took place.


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