What is the Youth Criminal Justice Act?

What is the Youth Criminal Justice Act?

The Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) is the legislation that takes care of the youth system in Canada. It deals with individuals under 18, and those who are at least 12. The main objective of the YCJA is to improve the process of dealing with less serious crimes committed by youth, without resorting to court procedures.

The Youth Justice Court Agreement gives the court access to more serious crimes and involvement in crime deterrence for youth.

Extrajudicial Measures 

  • Should be used in all cases where they would be adequate to hold the young person accountable.
  • Presumed to be adequate to hold first-time, non-violent offenders accountable.
  • The person can be punished in this way if they have committed a crime before.

As amended in 2012, the YCJA requires police to keep records of any extrajudicial measures used with a young person. These records will better inform the police so that they can take appropriate action in respect of subsequent alleged offences.

The Young Canada Criminal Association allows for youth to take part in the problem-solving process so that police officers do not need to charge them, if possible.

  • Taking no further action.
  • Warnings are informal warnings by police officers.
  • Police cautions are more formal warnings by the police.
  • Crown cautions are similar to police cautions but prosecutors give caution after the police refer the case to them. 
  • Referrals, are referrals by police officers of young persons to community programs or agencies that may help them not to commit offences. The referral may be to a wide range of community resources, including recreation programs and counselling agencies.
  • Extrajudicial sanctions, which are the most formal type of extrajudicial measure, maybe pre-charge or post-charge. 

The Youth Criminal Justice Act lays out guidelines for youth sentences.

Young people who have committed crimes should be given opportunities to rehabilitate themselves.

The YCJA sets out conditions which state that a youth sentence must:

  • Is not more severe than what an adult would receive for the same offence;
  • Be similar to youth sentences in similar cases;
  • Be proportionate to the seriousness of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the young person;
  • Within the limits of a proportionate response

(a) Be the least restrictive alternative

(b) Be the sentencing option that is most likely to rehabilitate and reintegrate the young person, and

(c) Promote in the young person a sense of responsibility and an acknowledgment of the harm done by the offence.

We highly discourage anyone from seeking out legal advice through this article. Particularly, this article only provides general information, and if you have any further questions regarding the

Youth Criminal Justice Act, please contact us to book a free initial consultation. Please do not hesitate to contact us at 905-366-0202, or visit our website here.


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