By Barbara Parkes, Probation Practitioner
A Senior Attendance Centre (SAC) requirement is the only community sentence requirement specifically targeted at young adults, aged 18 – 24. Now known as our ‘Fast Forward’ intervention, it recently featured an ‘Understanding the Law’ session that was held at Birmingham Victoria Law Courts near the end of 2016. We were given special permission to use one of the Courts to work with young adults to address their understanding of UK law and the criminal justice process.
The session included a workshop about how personal values and beliefs may affect how serious offences are viewed. It also considered what might be an appropriate sentence, exploring why we need guidelines and an independent judiciary.
The young people were asked to put their knowledge and skills into practice and a ‘courtroom drama’ took place in ‘real’ conditions. Young people were asked to play the part of a Magistrate and a scenario put to them. They were wholly engaged in this activity, presented themselves very well and were reflective and sincere in their thoughts about appropriate sentencing options. In the end, Paul, a SOVA Volunteer, was ‘sentenced’ to a Suspended Sentence Order, and a variety of Rehabilitation Activity Requirements were discussed.
Following our work, we asked the young people about the value of the session being held at the Courts. The feedback was very positive, they stated that it was good that they were able to experience the courtroom environment and get an understanding for the roles of the various people involved. It was an experience that they will remember positively.
On behalf of us all, a sincere thanks to Birmingham Magistrates Court staff who facilitated this for us.