Youth Justice

Youth Ages 12 To 17

Under the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA), a young person is defined as a youth between the ages of 12 and 17. If an offence is committed after a youth reaches the age of 18, the young person is charged as an adult.

The key principles of the YCJA and the Youth Justice System are to

  • prevent crime by addressing the circumstances underlying a young person’s offending behaviour
  • rehabilitate young persons who commit offences and reintegrate them into society
  • ensure that a young person is subject to meaningful consequences for his or her offence.

The YCJA says that measures taken against young persons who commit offences should

be meaningful for the individual young person given his or her needs and level of development and, where appropriate, involve the parents, the extended family, the community and social or other agencies in the young person’s rehabilitation and reintegration.

Before A Charge Is Laid

Prior to laying a criminal charge, police must first consider whether it would be sufficient, given the principles of the YCJA, to apply one of these options:

  • Take no further action against the young person.
  • Warn the young person.
  • Caution the young person.
  • Refer a young person, with his/her consent, to a community program or agency that may help him/her not to commit offences.
If the young person does not accept responsibility for the offence or if the above options are deemed inadequate to hold the young person accountable, the police officer may proceed with a charge.

Community Options Available Under The YCJA (after a charge is laid)

If the young person is found guilty of an offence, the Court may impose a community sentence. Options for community sentences are as follows:

  • Probation Order
  • Community Service Order
  • Restitution Order
  • Conditional Discharge
  • Attend a Non-Residential Program Order
  • Intensive Support and Supervision Order
  • Deferred Custody and Supervision Orders

In addition to community dispositions, the Court may commit the youth to a period in custody (open or secure custody) that may be in addition to other sanctions imposed at sentencing.

Youth Justice Committees

Youth Justice Committees involve victims and communities in finding ways to help young people who have committed minor offences become accountable for their actions.

A Youth Justice Committee meeting brings together a young person between the ages of 12 and 17 who is alleged to have committed a low-risk offence, his or her parent(s) or guardian(s), the victim, and trained members of the community. Together, they negotiate an appropriate way for the young person to make amends for his or her actions.

If the offence takes place on school property or is related to the school in some way, school personnel may be invited to participate in a Youth Justice Committee forum to share the perspective of the victim. Some examples of offences that might trigger a request for school personnel to attend a Youth Justice Committee meeting are vandalism, break and enter, threats against staff or students, false fire alarms, etc.

Conference Under YCJA Section 19(1)

Conferences may be convened by a Youth Justice Court judge, the provincial director (via the probation officer), a police officer, a Justice of the Peace, a Crown attorney, or a youth worker for the purpose of making a decision required under the YCJA. The mandate of the conference may be, among other things, to give advice on appropriate extrajudicial measures, conditions for judicial interim release, sentences including the review of sentences, and reintegration plans.

School personnel may, from time to time, be requested to attend a conference to assist with making decisions as outlined above, through sharing of information.

Limits To Information Sharing

Confidentiality and Sharing of Information

Information about a young person is protected under the YCJA. There are strict guidelines regarding the sharing of information in order to protect the privacy of young persons dealt with under this Act.

Section 125 (6) outlines the guidelines for the sharing of information with schools:

The provincial director, a youth worker, the Attorney General, a peace officer or any other person engaged in the provision of services to young persons may disclose to any professional or other person engaged in the supervision or care of a young person – educational or training institution – any information contained in a record kept under sections 114-116 if the disclosure is necessary

  • to ensure compliance by the young person with an authorization under section 91 or an order of the youth justice court;
  • to ensure the safety of staff, students or other persons; or
  • to facilitate rehabilitation of the young person.

Additional rules apply, including period of access, information to be kept separate, etc. Please see YCJA for details.

Where Do Teachers Fit In?

Teachers and other educational professionals have daily, direct contact with children and youth and can play an essential role in their social development. Schools often represent the only social venue in a community where a child or youth at risk can be identified and measures taken to help him or her at an early stage. Schools are sometimes the target of aggressive behaviour by troubled youth. Schools can be called upon to play a key role with youth involved in the justice system because school attendance is often included as part of a probation order or other sentence.

School officials can play a major role in the success of youth justice initiatives by helping to prevent youth crime through supervision, by defining how best to handle behavioural problems in the school setting, by working with youth involved in the justice system to ensure that their educational and other needs are addressed, and by supporting the reintegration of youth into the community.

Working with Community Justice Partners

Many individuals in the volunteer and social services sectors have regular, direct contact with children and youth and can play a strong role in contributing to their well-being and in supporting their social development. Offering a broad range of services in the community, many agencies are particularly involved in helping the most socially disadvantaged. Members of these organizations generally have a good understanding of their community and the special issues that affect young people. As such, they are a good source of support to the school community to assist young people with ongoing needs as they attempt to deal with the factors that brought them into conflict with the law.

Offences On School Property

Many incidents take place on school property that might result in criminal charges for the youth involved, such as

  • fighting (assault)
  • threats
  • theft of property
  • bomb threats
  • harassing telephone calls
  • possession of drugs/weapons
  • Internet misuse (online BULLYING/threats/pornography)
  • mischief (vandalism)

The local police service should be contacted if there is reason to believe that a crime has been committed at school, at a school related activity or in circumstances where engaging in an activity will have an impact on the school culture.

Community Threat Assessment Protocols

Community Threat Assessment Protocols are used by schools/school boards in partnership with community partners to assist in creating and maintaining a community where students, school/agency staff, parents and others feel safe. A Community Threat Assessment is used to identify indicators that suggest a young person may be moving on a pathway towards violence against him/herself or others and intervene to decrease that risk, prevent injury, and support the student in receiving the help he/she needs to address issues contributing to the high risk behaviour.