Frequently Asked Questions
The Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) applies to violations of federal laws, including the Criminal Code, by young persons between the ages of 12 and 17. The YCJA recognizes that young persons should be responsible for their actions, yet they should not be held accountable in the same way or face the same consequences as adults in all circumstances. You can find the YCJA at
Under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, a youth justice court is the only court that can deal with an offence committed by a young person. If the young person is found guilty, the court may impose either a youth sentence or an adult sentence.
An extrajudicial measure is a means used to deal with a young person alleged to have committed an offence, other than through the court system.
Yes. Examples of measures police may consider include:
Because this is the general rule under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. A young person who is accused of a crime cannot have their name published.
A young person can be identified when:
Under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, publication of identifying information related to a child or a young person who is a witness or victim in connection with an offence committed by a young person is prohibited. A victim or witness in such a case can authorize disclosure of their information. If they are under 18 years old, their parents must consent to the disclosure. Parents of a deceased child or young person who was a victim or witness to an offence committed by a young person may publish information identifying their child.
Once the matter has been referred to the crown attorney they may:
In most cases accused young people are held separately from adults. The only exceptions to this are if the young person’s safety or the safety of others would be jeopardized by holding the youth in a youth detention facility, or if there is no suitable place within a reasonable distance.
If a young person is facing the prospect of being held in custody prior to trial, the court has an obligation to inquire whether there is a responsible person available to care for the young person, make sure they attend court, and make sure that they comply with court conditions. The responsible person must agree to these conditions in writing and the young person must also agree.
A judge can only accept a plea if they are confident that the young person fully understands the consequences of the plea. For this reason, if a young person does not have a lawyer, they will be encouraged to obtain a lawyer at virtually every stage of the court proceedings. If a young person is denied Legal Aid coverage and cannot afford a lawyer on their own, the judge can appoint a lawyer to act for them. This is a special safeguard used only for youths—there is no way for a court to appoint a lawyer for an adult who has been denied Legal Aid.
A judge may still accept a plea from a youth who has decided to not obtain a lawyer—however, extra care must be taken to ensure the young person fully understands the implications of the plea.
The young person has a right to counsel who will represent their best interests and follow their instructions. Counsel is to provide advice based on their experience and knowledge, but the young person’s instructions must be followed. If a judge decides that the interests of the parent and the young person conflict, or that the best interests of the young person are not being properly served, the judge shall ensure that the young person is represented by counsel independent of that parent.
Yes. However, the onus is on the Crown Attorney to show why an adult sentence should be imposed.
Not anymore. On May 16, 2008, in the case of R v D.B. the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the provisions in the Youth Criminal Justice Act that listed presumptive offences for which an adult sentence would be imposed where the young person is 14 years of age or older. You can read the case here:
The Youth Criminal Justice Act allows youth records to be kept by the following:
The following are examples of records that might be kept:
A young person, the young person’s lawyer, and the Attorney General can all access the youth record.
Parents of the young person and adults assisting the young person have access to the record during the proceedings and youth sentence. Peace officers have access to youth court records for case administration and law enforcement purposes. A judge, court, or review board may access the youth record for related proceedings or re-offences by the young person.
Yes. They may also request that a record check be done. Once a young person obtains a copy of the record, they may provide it to anyone, including a potential employer.
When a youth record is closed, the young person may inform employers that they do not have a record and that they have not been charged with, or found guilty of, a criminal offence.
Employers are not entitled to access a youth record on their own (except when the government is the employer).
The Youth Criminal Justice Act provides for non-disclosure of records after a certain period of time in order to prevent individuals from being haunted by their previous infractions as youths. For example, when the offence is indictable, the records are subject to non-disclosure five years after the completion of the sentence. For a summary conviction offence, the access period is three years. The record is accessible if another offence is committed during the access period.
A youth record for a summary conviction offence may be accessed for up to three years after the youth sentence is complete. The access period is five years for an indictable offence. After those time periods, the record is closed unless a further offence is committed during the access period for the original offence.