Canada’s Youth Criminal Justice Act

  1. Legal Framework for Youth Offenders in Scarborough
  2. Youth Criminal Justice Principles
  3. Special Considerations in the YCJA Legal Process
  4. Sentencing Considerations in YCJA Convictions
  5. The Importance of Securing Legal Counsel

According to the latest Statistics Canada data, the country’s annual number of youth offender arrests experienced an uptick in 2022, breaking more than 15 years of consecutive declines. Canadian police charged 29,790 youth with criminal offences in 2022, a 5,000-plus increase over 2021 youth crime case numbers. Despite the rise, the figure still represents a 31% decline from the 93,000-plus youth arrested in 2003, when legislators enacted a new young offenders act in Canada.

In Ontario, police charged over 9,000 youth offenders in 2022, almost 2,000 more than in 2021 but still 26% less than the nearly 34,000 youths charged in 2003. Of the 2022 provincial youth offenders, police arrested 2,813 in the Greater Toronto Area.

Statistics Canada’s level of detail does not provide information on how many young offenders Scarborough police arrest every year. However, with practice as youth criminal defence lawyers, we know that youth offenders contribute to Scarborough’s crime rate. Let’s examine how Canada’s Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) addresses young offenders and youth crime and sets parameters for youth sentencing.

Legal Framework for Youth Offenders in Scarborough

Under Canada’s youth law, young offenders in Scarborough and throughout the country face a different criminal justice system than adults when they commit a criminal offence. Youth offenders are subject to prosecution for the same offences as adults. Still in addressing youth crimes, the YCJA modifies the criminal justice system from the initial police interaction to youth court and sentencing guidelines.

The Act applies to any offender between the ages of 12 and 18 and provides them with legal rights and special protections beyond that offered to adults charged with a criminal offence. These expanded rights and special protections include:

  • Right to legal representation at every step of the criminal justice process.
  • Immediate parental notification and parental right to attend all proceedings, including bail hearings.
  • Restrictions on the admissibility of youth statements or confessions.
  • Right to participate in and be informed about all elements of the official proceedings.
  • Higher thresholds for court-ordered pre-trial detention.
  • Greater flexibility in sentencing if convicted (with incarceration deemed a last resort).
  • Safeguards for the offender’s privacy.

Children under 12 cannot be charged or prosecuted under Canadian law because they are legally below the age of criminal responsibility. However, those under 12 who commit serious offences usually face some government intervention designed to rehabilitate them and encourage future lawful behaviour.

Youth Criminal Justice Principles

The YCJA is framed by a Declaration of Principles that guides how the law should be interpreted, with an emphasis on balancing public protection with the needs of the youthful offender. These principles are based on the premise that youth are presumed to be less morally blameworthy than adults. While offending youth should be held accountable, it needs to be done in a way that accounts for their reduced maturity and greater dependency.

Noting that the Act should “be liberally construed,” the principles stress that youth offenders should be held accountable through measures that balance the seriousness of the offence with the offender’s level of maturity. Fair and proportionate accountability should promote the “rehabilitation and reintegration” of young offenders. It should also support crime prevention by referring youth offenders to community programs or agencies capable of addressing the underlying causes of the offending behaviour. Other principles include:

  • Encouraging the offender’s respect for societal values and the “repair of harm done to victims and the community.”
  • Timely action by the criminal justice system to “reinforce the link between the offending behaviour and its consequences.”
  • Meaningful criminal justice system action tailored to the offender’s distinct needs and development level.
  • Involving family, community, social organizations or other organizations in the rehabilitation and reintegration as appropriate.

Special Considerations in the YCJA Legal Process

Based on the YCJA principles, youth who commit first-time, non-violent offences are often eligible for extrajudicial measures that can negate the need for formal youth court procedures. In fact, the YCJA deems such extrajudicial measures as “often the most appropriate and effective way to address youth crime” based on their timeliness and ability to hold the offender accountable. Extrajudicial measures include, but are not limited to:

  • A simple verbal warning from the police.
  • A written caution by police.
  • A written caution from the Crown prosecutor.
  • Referrals to counselling, community programs, or other resources.

Youth offenders arrested for an indictable offence, such as manslaughter, aggravated assault, or burglary, are usually not eligible for extrajudicial measures. However, in some cases, a skilled youth lawyer may be able to convince the Crown to offer a court-approved extrajudicial sanction. This option suspends court action based on compliance with specific terms and conditions. Under this scenario, the youth offender takes responsibility for the offence by successfully performing volunteer work, compensating the victim, and/or participating in specialized programs. Failure to comply with extrajudicial sanction terms results in the resumption of court proceedings against the offender.

Sentencing Considerations in YCJA Convictions

To promote rehabilitation and reintegration into society, if a youth offender is tried and convicted in youth court, the Act requires the sentence to be:

  • Less severe than an adult would receive for the same offence.
  • Similar to sentences handed down to other youth for the same crime.
  • Proportionate to the degree of responsibility by the offender and the seriousness of the offence.
  • The least restrictive alternative.
  • Most likely to promote rehabilitation.
  • Likely to encourage the offender’s acknowledgement and responsibility for the offence’s harm done to society and/or victims.

Based on YCJA principles, youth court judges tend to reserve custodial sentences for violent offenders and serious repeat offenders. Those sentenced to confinement in a youth facility typically face a maximum two-year sentence, except those convicted of murder or other serious offences, who face up to 10 years’ incarceration.

Even for convictions that warrant incarceration, judges will often sentence offenders to deferred or open custody. Offenders serve deferred custody in the community under house arrest or curfew terms. Open custody places offenders in group homes, where they are closely monitored and must follow strict living conditions and rules. Other sentencing options include:

  • Formal reprimand from the judge.
  • Absolute or conditional discharge (used if the judge believes the offender has “learned their lesson” and represents limited risk of reoffending).
  • Counselling and/or participation in youth support programs.
  • Fine (maximum of $1,000).
  • Restitution/compensation to the victim.
  • Personal service to the victim.
  • Community service.
  • Probation

The Importance of Securing Legal Counsel

Youth law is a complex and nuanced component of the criminal justice system that is best navigated with the skills and experience of a criminal law lawyer who has defended youth offenders. A competent youth criminal lawyer can determine whether they can successfully defend the charges in youth court or, barring that option, know how to work with provisions within the YCJA to mitigate the severity of the charges to deliver the most favourable outcome. If the police have arrested you as a young offender in Scarborough, criminal lawyers at Vilkhov Law stand ready to help you successfully navigate the intricacies of Canada’s youth law.

By |2024-03-04T18:25:22+00:00March 4th, 2024|Uncategorized|

5/5 - (3 votes)

Criminal Lawyers Association
Toronnto Lawyers Association
Law Society of Ontario
Criminal Lawyers Association
Toronnto Lawyers Association
Law Society of Ontario
Excellent5.0 Based on 131 reviews fromKK ★★★★★ So thankful that he got the job done and with reasonable pricing, he was so helpful and respectful throughout the whole process. 5 stars well earned.Sami Life Style (SamSam)Sami Life Style (SamSam) ★★★★★ I was facing very serious charges and was represented by Mr. Prajs. Mr. Prajs and the whole team at Vilkhov law vigorously defended me at trial and my charges were withdrawn. I can recommend Mr. Prajs and the whole Vilkhov team to anyone facing serious allegations.Ysabel AtienzaYsabel Atienza ★★★★★ Igor displays a level of professionalism, knowledge and dedication that puts his clients at ease during a very stressful time. His expertise in criminal law is unparalleled. What sets him apart is his unwavering commitment to his clients. He genuinely cares about his clients’ well-being and will go above and beyond for you!Kevin DKevin D ★★★★★ Igor is a great lawyer and has provided valuable guidance throughout my experience with him. He has always been honest and straightforward which I appreciate very much. I would recommend him to anyone looking for a successful outcome.Narmatha SNarmatha S ★★★★★ Igor is a dedicated and intelligent lawyer, known for his commitment to his clients.I've witnessed firsthand his incredible work ethic and professionalism, which sets a high standard in the legal field. His ability to meticulously research cases and articulate arguments convincingly is truly impressive!Fred BalmerFred Balmer ★★★★★ Experience with Vilkhov Law was great, Igor made all my charges get dropped without any issues. I would highly recommend this firm to everyoneDavinder GillDavinder Gill ★★★★★ Ecem KokEcem Kok ★★★★★ My experience with Vilkhov Law was nothing short of exceptional. Facing a daunting legal battle, looking at significant jail time and scared, I sought Igor Vilkhov's expertise based on his stellar reputation in criminal law. From the initial consultation to the trial, every step was handled with precision and care. His deep knowledge of the law and strategic approach gave me confidence throughout.In a pivotal moment during my case, Igor Vilkhov's dedication and expertise truly shone through, resulting in a favorable outcome that exceeded my expectations. His communication was clear and timely, keeping me informed and reassured at every turn.I am immensely grateful to Igor Vilkhov and the entire team at Vilkhov Law for his unwavering support and tireless effort. His professionalism and commitment are second to none. If you find yourself in need of expert legal representation, look no further than Vilkhov Law. He is simply the best.Rhea OXXORhea OXXO ★★★★★ Jessie TeixeiraJessie Teixeira ★★★★★ I would like to thank Igor Vilkhov and his dedicated team for their professional assistance in dealing with my matter. I could not be happier about the way my matter was handled and am very satisfied with the result.Annabella FusaroAnnabella Fusaro ★★★★★ Igor Vilkhov was an amazing Lawyer. I met him through one of his colleagues and one thing I can say he fights for your rights and he doesn’t amazing job. He was so patient and kind with me. I’m very grateful for the outcome of my case. May god bless Igor And the amazing work he does.AnnabellaXuan LinXuan Lin ★★★★★ Hello my name is Leon I got charged with SA in 2021 in relation to a young complainant. I have been looking about 10 lawyer all of then is bad and lie all they care is money never help my case .Until I meet Igor I told him what happened he told me no worry he will try his best for help me . And this year May I won the case I just can't believe it Igor is best lawyer he is legendary . Guy you should believe in Igor he is really good. His preparation was meticulous and was acquitted. He saved my life.ChrisChris ★★★★★ The Best Lawyer In my opinion. A legal Tactician in the modern day criminal justice court systems. Very professional service. Great Techniques and Extremely knowledgable and Highly talented and recommended team.I’m 37 old Newfoundlander who is not well spoken but this was an easy to write.Nikolai Wheeler-BalazevNikolai Wheeler-Balazev ★★★★★ I want to start off this review by thanking Mr.Vilkhov for handling my case, Igor got my case resolved in a timely manor, i had previously been going to court for my case for about a year, and when i had gotten Mr.Vilkhov as my lawyer he had my case resolved and all my charges withdrawn in a matter of days. If anybody is looking for a lawyer i would urge you to go with Mr.Vilkhov, he knows what he is doing and knows how to do it quickly.Shannan HarrisonShannan Harrison ★★★★★ Mr. Vilkhov is an outstanding lawyer, I just avoided a lengthy jail sentence because of him. I literally cannot believe what he was able to do for me. The judge in court praised him for his work, thank you so much.Anoop RAnoop R ★★★★★ One of the best law firms in town! Highly recommended. Just retain them. They'll do the rest.ARRARR ★★★★★ I was falsely accused and charged with a serious offence. All it took was just one phone call from the complainant. As an immigrant, it was a nightmare. Fortunately Igor was the first person whom I contacted and I knew he was the one and I retained him. Beware of the lawyers who try to scare you, make you feel insecure. From the first phone call, he never made me feel insecure. He was confident that he can get the work done. Igor and Daniel promptly attended all my court dates. It took a while to achieve the resolution and finally my case was unconditionally withdrawn. I can't thank him enough. As Igor is a busy person, I was getting updates regularly from Daniel. I would give six stars to Daniel. Igor should never let him go. I would definitely recommend this law firm. You might sometimes feel that Igor is late in responding, but he'll be putting all his efforts behind the scene. Just have faith in him. I wish Igor and Daniel all the best.Brandon ABrandon A ★★★★★ Igor was fantastic to work with. He was always very quick to respond and answered any questions I had at any time during the process. I'm so impressed for his amazing and efficient work - he was able to have any charges against me dropped. I highly recommend Igor to anybody that's currently facing legal trouble. He truly exceeded my expectations and I'm so grateful for everything. Thank you Igor!Maria AgasMaria Agas ★★★★★ I was very impressed with his professionalism, swift responses and attention to detail. He was proactive and always communicated next steps. I’m so happy we came across Igor and his team. Igor is amazing and wonderful lawyer.Cindy LiCindy Li ★★★★★ I cannot express my gratitude enough for the exceptional legal representation provided by Igor. Facing wrongful accusations was a harrowing experience, but Igor's expertise and dedication swiftly turned the tide in my favor. He navigated the complexities of the case with professionalism, demonstrating remarkable intelligence and a deep understanding of the legal system. Thanks to his efforts, the charges were withdrawn in a timely manner, allowing me to move forward with my life. Igor is not just a good lawyer; he is an outstanding advocate for his clients. I wholeheartedly recommend his services to anyone in need of top-notch legal assistance.George ArellanoGeorge Arellano ★★★★★ Mr. Vilkhov got my charges withdrawn today after a very stressful time in my life. I hired him because of his reviews and I am not surprised that I got this result. I appreciate him and his team. Igor literally dedicates his entire life for his clients.Latch Ramoutar