Lesson 4: Youth Criminal Justice Act Introduction

Topic 2: Introduction to the Youth Criminal Justice Act

The Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) reinforces the principle that the criminal justice system for young people is different from the one for adults. It provides a clear direction and it establishes a structure for the application of its principles.

The basic principles of the YCJA promote the long term protection of the public.

  1. Prevent crime by addressing the circumstances underlying a young person’s offending behaviour
  2. Rehabilitate young persons who commit offences and reintegrate them into society
  3. Ensure that a young person is subject to meaningful consequences for his or her offence

Young people can expect meaningful consequences to be carried out in the community if they become involved in crime. Greater involvement of the victim and the community in the process of diversion and sentencing will help young people be rehabilitated and reintegrated into the community. The YCJA recognizes the role of the victim in community based measures as well as in the court process, and includes them in the conference process. The victim's right to information and access to the records of the young offender is established by the YCJA.

For first-time offenders and less serious offenders this may include more diversion away from the court system by police and the Crown. Community based programs are an integral and large part of this plan. Alternatives to the court process involve the whole community, the person involved, the parents, the teachers, the police and the victims of the crime. Youth will be held accountable and will see the value that the community places on doing something to right the wrong done.

These alternatives are called "Extrajudicial Measures and Extrajudicial Sanctions". A community-based sentence could include restitution, compensation for victims and restorative approaches, such as participating in a community justice conference, attendance at rehabilitative programs, community service and community supervision.

There is a distinction in the YCJA between non-violent offenders and violent offenders and between first-time offenders and repeat offenders.  The courts deal with young offenders who have committed serious offences or who are repeat offenders. The seriousness of the consequences is closely matched to the seriousness of the crime.  

New and expanded sentences apply and more emphasis is placed on rehabilitation and reintegration. Community-based court ordered sentences are encouraged, where appropriate. Custody is reserved for violent offenders and repeat offenders. Youth who are found guilty of attempted murder, murder, manslaughter, aggravated sexual assault, or their third serious violent offence may expect to receive adult sentences.

Government services focus on rehabilitation while in custody and also ensure that, once released, youth are closely supervised and assisted in their reintegration into society. Communities will be directly involved with improving the supervision of and the reintegration of violent or repeat young offenders who are released from custody. The new sentences would provide for close supervision and support in the community and would also include attendance orders; intensive support and supervision orders; and deferred custody and supervision orders.