Why would the Canadian Justice system have a separate system just for youth? What age should “youth” be considered? Is a separate system beneficial? Why or why not? Do you think children, under the age of 18, should in fact have a separate system that deals with their issues? The Canadian justice system recognizes that youth and adult crime need to be dealt with differently. Maturity is a factor in making choices and being able to foresee the probable consequences of your actions. Youth legislation applies to people 12-17 years of age. Offenders under the Youth Criminal Justice Act are referred to as “young persons”. The overall purpose of the Act is to make the public feel safe. Young people must be accountable for their actions which means they must face the consequences for their wrong-doings. The consequence for the crime must be proportionate to the seriousness of the crime. 1) To prevent crimes by addressing the circumstances underlying a young person’s behavior. 2) To rehabilitate and integrate young people who commit offences into society. 3) To ensure that a young person is subject to meaningful consequences for his/her offences. The Youth Criminal Justice Act establishes a fair and effective youth justice system. Serious and repeat offenders are dealt with more severely. There are many choices or options for sentencing. Victims, parents and the community are encouraged to become involved in the process whether it is in court or not. The accused youth has all the extra protection under the law such as: A) the right to remain silent, B) the right to know the reasons for arrest and C) the right to retain counsel. The youth is entitled to legal counsel at arrest, at trial and when a sanction is being used. As well, a youth is entitled to have an adult or a parent present when being questioned by the police. Youth can also waive their rights under the Act. Serious violent crimes occur when someone gets hurt as a result of a crime or if there is a serious risk of someone being hurt. For example, a robbery in which no one was injured could be considered “violent” if a gun, or even a replica of a gun, was used as a threat. A youth is a “repeat offender” if s/he has committed a crime before. The Youth Criminal Justice Act can give an adult sentence to a youth 14 years old or older if that person has been convicted of one of four serious violent offences or if the youth has a pattern of convictions for violent crimes. This means that when a youth (14, 15, 16 or older) commits attempted murder, murder, manslaughter , aggravated sexual assault or a third serious offence an adult sentence shall be imposed if the youth is found guilty. Do you think it is fair to impose an adult sentence on a child of 14, 15, or 16 years of age? Should the the severity of the crime matter in terms of sentencing? The trial for a youth being sentenced as an adult is always held in youth court. The Act can provide for a sentence that includes special supervision if the youth has committed one or more of the serious crimes. This special supervision is called “intensive rehabilitation custody”. The maximum youth sentence in the Act is ten years for 1st degree murder, six years served in custody and four years under supervision. The Youth Criminal Justice Act states that the media may publish the name of a youth who has been convicted of a serious violent crime and has received an adult sentence. If the youth does get an adult sentence for a serious violent crime then the records are treated in the same way as if the youth were an adult. Most youth who commit crimes are either non-violent offenders of first time offenders. Non-violent offenders and first time offenders will have a range of options other than going to court such as: police warnings or police or Crown division programs. Extrajudicial Measures and Sanctions may place young people who offend into programs that will help address their problems and they may also provide and opportunity for restitution to the community. If they go to court, sentences could include doing something for the victim to make up for the crime or doing some form of community service. “Extrajudicial Measures and Sanctions” are designed to solve problems and to keep young people out of the court system by having them take such responsibility for their actions and, where appropriate, take other actions such as apologize, attend counselling, make restitution, among others. These extra-judicial measures and sanctions are often more meaningful and can help the youth focus on repairing the harm done to the victim and to the community. Rehabilitation means that young offenders must take steps to address some of his/her problems. This Act believes that young people must be held accountable for their crimes. However, because of their age, young people are less set in their ways and they are more likely to respond to treatment programs and to be successfully rehabilitated and become law-abiding citizens. The Act underscores the importance of rehabilitation programs such as drug and alcohol counselling, anger management programs and job training. The youth who commit crimes must learn to fit back into his/her community. The Act makes this a priority. All custodial sentences will include a period of supervision in the community following the period in custody. Reintegration planning will be required for all youth in custody. There may be some rules that the youth must follow such as: attending school, obeying a curfew, not associating with certain people, not using drugs or alcohol and attending anger management classes. If these conditions are followed while the youth is being closely supervised and supported then the youth has a better chance of not committing a crime again during this critical period. What do you think about having youth, who commit non-violent crimes, doing something for the victim to make up for the crime or some form of community service? Is this the right way to deal with them? Explain…. If you do not think this is fair or right, what should be done to them? A cornerstone of youth justice in Canada is that, as a general rule, the identity of a young person should be protected. The rationale is that publication of the name of a young person would impede rehabilitation efforts and detrimentally affect young persons and, in the long run, compromise public safety. However, there are certain exceptions. Under the YOA, one exception is that the publication of information that identifies the young person is permitted if the young person is transferred to adult court. A result of this provision is that the identifying information can be published before a court has determined whether or not the young person is guilty of the offence. This result is considered by many to be unfair to the young person. Under the YCJA, the identifying information cannot be published until a youth court has found the young person guilty of the offence and imposed an adult sentence. The YCJA also allows publication of identifying information where a youth sentence is imposed for a presumptive offence. However, there are limitations: The court may decide that publication is not appropriate, taking into account the importance of rehabilitating the young person and the public interest. Publication is not permitted if the prosecutor has notified the court that an adult sentence will not be sought for the presumptive offence. Keeping people in custody (as in jail) has been shown not to be the best approach for rehabilitation. When people are released they might commit more crimes because they did not break their old habits. Therefore, alternatives should be considered for youth. The convicted youth would have a criminal record for up to five years after s/he has completed his/her sentence or ten years of a violent crime. If he/she commits another offence within that time period then the previous offence could be addressed in court especially in sentencing. Even a “closed” youth record can be re-opened by the court at a later time if more offences are committed. A convicted youth may not be able to travel to another country or secure certain types of employment if they have a record. It is important to realize that young offenders criminal records do not automatically disappear after the age of 18. The youth justice system has been criticized by some for not adequately recognizing the interests and needs of victims. Under the YCJA, the interests and needs of victims are clearly recognized and the role of victims at different stages of the youth justice process is specified. Key provisions include: The principles of the YCJA specifically recognize the concerns of victims. Victims are to be given information about the proceedings and given an opportunity to participate and be heard. They are to be treated with courtesy, compassion and respect for their dignity and privacy. Victims have a right of access to youth court records. Victims' participation in community-based approaches to responding to the offence is encouraged. If a young person is dealt with by an extrajudicial sanction, the victim of the offence has a right to be informed of how the offence was dealt with.