Youth and Crime: Youth Criminal Justice Act (ycja – 2003)

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Youth and Crime: Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA – 2003)

  • Law 12
  • MUNDY 2009

History of Youth Justice in Canada

  • Canadian law has commonly seen youth as in need of separate treatment in courts for crimes, when compared to adult offenders
  • As early as Juvenile Delinquency Act (1908), youth were “misdirected, misguided” and in need of “aid, encouragement, help and assistance”
  • Hence priority on rehabilitation as opposed to other objectives of sentencing

History of Youth Justice in Canada

  • Laws regarding criminal activity by ‘minors’ were revised in 1984 with the Young Offenders Act (YOA), which included:
    • criminal proceedings similar to full court trials
    • provided new ways of dealing with ‘at risk’ youth through sentencing that would address the ‘underlying causes of crime’
    • more safeguards for youth against people in positions of authority that were open to abuse

History of Youth Justice in Canada

  • Reports from Youth Justice Strategy (1998) and Summit on Justice (1999) recommended that YOA be revised for:
    • prevention
    • meaningful consequences for offences by youth
    • harsher punishment for violent repeat offenders
  • Key Recommendations:
    • lowering age of responsibility
    • holding parents more accountable
    • use of incarceration as last resort
    • alternative measures as sentences

Youth Criminal Justice Act

  • Criticism of YOA resulted in creation of the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA 2004)
  • YCJA’s four main principles:
    • prevention by addressing causes of crime and encourage community effort to reduce crime
    • meaningful consequences that hold all young people accountable for their actions (and to help them understand the implications of the harm they’ve done)
    • rehabilitation and reintegration into society
    • flexibility for provinces to establish youth justice policies that best meet their local needs for youth

Who is a ‘Youth’?

  • 0 – 11 years old = ‘child’; no criminal responsibility
  • 12 – 17 = ‘youth’; partial criminal responsibility
  • 18 + = ‘adult’; full criminal responsibility
  • By contrast, the Juvenile Delinquents Act designated 7 + yrs old as partially criminally responsible

Major Changes with YCJA

  • Increased role for rehabilitation programs for non-violent, violent and repeat offenders
  • Introduced stiffer sentences for violent offenders (e.g. – murder, manslaughter & aggravated sexual assault committed by 14 yrs + can have sentences as adults)
  • Hardships for Aboriginal offenders need to be considered when sentencing
  • Equal to ½ of sentenced time in custody must be served in community as period of supervision

Provisions of YCJA

  • The YCJA does not outline any new crimes that would involve only youth
  • YCJA outlines how ‘young offenders’ are to be dealt with when arrested for a crime listed in the Canadian Criminal Code
  • Youth now have same rights as adults as listed in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms
  • Youth have additional rights upon particular types of arrest

Provisions of YCJA

  • Youth are not necessarily arrested when caught breaking the law (incident is recorded by police, however)
  • If crime is non-violent or a first-time offence, youth may become involved in an alternative measures program, avoiding courts altogether
  • Examples of alternative measures programs:
    • Community service
    • Essay/presentation/referral
    • Social skills improvement

Youth Crime Statistics

  • See Stats Canada -> Crime and Justice (Youth):

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