The Youth Criminal Justice Act (or the YCJA) applies to youth that are aged 12 to 17 who have been charged with criminal offences. This special legislation exists to ensure that Courts take into consideration the challenges and needs of young Canadians. The drafters of the YCJA recognized that youth sometimes make mistakes and should not be prejudiced for the rest of their lives because of those mistakes. The YCJA is intended to uphold the rights of Canadian youth and to focus on rehabilitation and reintegration.

For example, the YCJA requires that Courts consider extrajudicial measures in all cases, even if the accused is found guilty or has had prior convictions. This means that judges must first look to punishments other than, say, jail time or probation. Only young offenders in exceptional circumstances, such as where they have committed a violent crime or have an extensive criminal history, will be given a sentence in jail. Judges have multiple options in sentencing youth, including a reprimand (also known as a warning) or an order to attend a special program or counseling.

The YCJA also requires special police action when dealing with youth. Police officers must consider extrajudicial measures in all cases before choosing to lay charges. For example, police may give a warning or a police caution instead of laying charges.

There is a special court just for youth in London, Ontario that takes into consideration the principles described above. Have you been charged as a youth? Do you have questions about the Youth Court? Contact Cassandra at DeMelo Law for a free consultation.