Youth Criminal Justice Act – Youth Court and Sentencing

NARRATOR If a young person’s case is not resolved through extrajudicial measures then it will
be dealt with in youth court. When a young person is charged with an offence, they may
remain in the community, often with strict conditions, or, if the court deems it necessary,
be kept in custody until the trial takes place. Being held in custody while awaiting trial
is known as pre-trial detention. PROFESSOR NICHOLAS BALA The Youth Criminal
Justice Act has provisions to try to make sure that young people are only placed in
detention either for the immediate protection of the public or to ensure that they will
attend court. The youth court judge faces a very difficult decision knowing that this
could have a very dramatic impact on the life of the young person. And typically detention
is sought if it is either a very serious offence, perhaps involving significant violence in
the community, or if the young person has a fairly lengthy record of prior offending,
or has a record of having been released on bail on certain conditions and having failed
to comply with those conditions. SENTENCING
NARRATOR If a youth pleads guilty or is found guilty of a criminal offence, the youth court
judge must determine the appropriate sentence. The purpose of youth sentences is to hold
the young person accountable by imposing sanctions that have meaningful consequences and that
promote rehabilitation and reintegration. The YCJA provides youth court judges with
many different sentencing options to deal with the full range of youth crime. These
include both community-based sentences and custody sentences. The maximum length of youth
sentences ranges from two to ten years depending on the offence. PROFESSOR SUSAN REID Even when young people
are found guilty, or convicted of an offence, the courts still have options to have creative
sentences. So all the opportunities that are presented in terms of referring young people
to agencies, having them go to an attendance centre, have them attend drug and alcohol
counselling, doing community service work, have them have an opportunity to meet with
a probation officer are all outside of a more formal process. So these measures are excellent
in that they draw on the strengths and talents of young people, they involve our community
members to be supportive adults to help in the raising and development of young people
in our communities. CROWN PROSECUTOR KEVIN MOTT The YCJA, in my
opinion, gives the justice system the opportunity to try and nip criminal offenses in the bud
if we can. And allow for some more creative sentencing, allow for more resources to be
employed, so that this may be the only time this person appears in the criminal justice
system as an accused person. PROFESSOR NICHOLAS BALA The range of sanctions,
at the low end we start with something called a reprimand. Simply the judge talking to the
young person and warning them of the future consequence if they re-offend. Trying to perhaps
assess what has happened. We have a range of situations where there may be a discharge
imposed, the young person is released without further sanctions or record. In more serious
cases and perhaps the most common sentence that is imposed under the Act is probation.
So the young person’s released into the community but has to meet certain conditions in terms
of their behaviour, often in terms of reporting to a probation officer, perhaps having a curfew,
restrictions placed on who they can associate with. In more serious cases we have custody.
There is open custody which may have a young person living away from their family but in
a group home, there are also provisions for more secure custody which is really effectively
jail for young persons in secure facilities. NARRATOR Under the YCJA, custody sentences
are intended primarily for violent offenders and serious repeat offenders. In some very
serious cases, the YCJA also allows judges to impose an intensive rehabilitative custody
and supervision order if a youth has been found guilty of a serious violent offence
and is suffering from a mental, psychological or emotional disorder. In these cases an individualized
treatment plan is developed for the young person. DEFENCE LAWYER PATRICIA YUZWENKO It involves
very intensive treatment, where they have a whole team of psychiatrists, psychologists
and medical doctors and nurses, all kinds of therapists working with that young person
trying to get what is going on underneath the violence, and work on getting them back
into the community. It’s expensive but it works and it’s just an amazing thing with
the clients that have been there so far. NARRATOR While, in most cases judges impose
one of the youth sentencing options within the YCJA, the Act does allow judges to impose
an adult sentence on a youth who is found guilty of a serious offence and was 14 years
of age or older when the crime was committed. In fact, prosecutors are obligated to consider
seeking an adult sentence when a youth is found guilty of murder, attempted murder,
manslaughter or aggravated sexual assault. However, the Act does allow provinces to set
the age at which this obligation applies to 15 or 16. NARRATOR When a judge decides to impose an
adult sentence, the Criminal Code penalties that apply to adult offenders are applied
to the youth. This can include mandatory minimum penalties and sentences of up to life imprisonment.
However, under the YCJA, no portion of either an adult or a youth sentence can be served
in an adult prison while the youth is still under the age of 18.

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