Youth and criminal justice: when a law encourages rehabilitation and reintegration

Youth and criminal justice: when a law encourages rehabilitation and reintegration

Have you ever wondered what happens to offenders under the age of 18? Whether you are a young person with a case pending before the Youth Court, or you are the parent of a youth with a case, this article may be of interest to you.

Youth can also face criminal justice

It is important to note that youth between the ages of 12 and 17 can face criminal justice[1]. Of course, young people who commit offences do not receive the same treatment as adults. Indeed, there is a very special law that applies to them: the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA)[2].

Features of the YCJA as it applies to youth offenders

While Criminal Code offences affect us all, the YCJA excludes sections that deal with sentencing and those that deal with dangerous or long-term offenders.

Unlike the Criminal Code, the YCJA is intended to be rehabilitative and not punitive. It is intended, in particular, to make the youth aware of the actions he or she has taken, while taking into account the interests of the victims. The latter may also be actively involved in the young offender’s case. Under this law, parents are also encouraged to get involved in the case of their child facing criminal charges. The aim: rehabilitation and the reintegration of the youth into society.

Preventing the youth from being automatically prosecuted

To this end, the YCJA has mechanisms in place to ensure that young offenders are not automatically prosecuted when their behaviour deviates from established norms. As such, the Act establishes extrajudicial measures[3]. These are divided into two levels: extrajudicial measures and extrajudicial sanctions.

The extrajudicial measures of the YCJA

The first level includes warnings, cautions and cross-references. Police officers[4] and Crown prosecutors[5] may use their discretionary powers to avoid laying charges against a youth. The teenager is therefore warned and given a first chance.

If the youth is not eligible for extrajudicial measures….

At the second level are extrajudicial sanctions[6]. Crown counsel will have no choice but to pursue this option if the offence in question is one that precludes the youth from benefiting from the extrajudicial measures. At this stage, the young offender will be given another chance. However, he or she will have to meet certain conditions determined by the Crown Prosecutor[7].

What to do when the youth returns to court following measures and sanctions

If the youth who has been granted extrajudicial measures and sanctions were to return to court, his or her case would then be prosecuted. The main consequence of this judicialization would very likely be the imposition of a criminal record.

To find out more or if you are facing justice, contact us. Our specialist lawyers will be committed to supporting you in your process.

[1] Me Jean Turmel and Me Sophie Delisle, La Loi sur le système de justice pénale pour les adolescents, Droit pénal – Procédures et preuve, Collection de droit de l’École du Barreau 2015-2016, at p. 269.

[2]  LC 2002, c 1. after “LSJPA”

[3]  Art. 4 to 12 of the YCJA.

[4] Art. 6, YCJA.

[5] Art. 8 YCJA.

[6] Art. 10 to 12 YCJA.

[7]Art. 13 YCJA.