Lesson 7: Youth Criminal Justice Act - Sentencing and Records


Activity 1: Sentencing Principles

Begin the lesson by asking students why we sentence individuals convicted of crimes. Eventually, the students may come up with the following:

General Principles of Sentencing — What a Judge Considers

  • Protection of society
  • Rehabilitation of the offender
  • General deterrence — meaning deterring other members of society from committing the act
  • Specific deterrence — meaning deterring this particular offender from re‑offending

You can have the students read Handout 1: Sentencing Principles before or after your introduction.  Cover the highlights and ask the students to look at Handout 2: Sentencing Principles-Scenario. Read Jake’s Story and have your students complete the activity at the bottom of this handout.

Make sure that you emphasize the specific purpose of youth sentencing and discuss the guidelines. The specific purpose of youth sentencing is to hold the young offender accountable through just measures or sanctions that ensure meaningful consequences and promote rehabilitation and reintegration into society.

General Guidelines When Sentencing

A youth sentence must be:

  • The least restrictive that can achieve the purpose of holding the young person accountable and that will promote rehabilitation and reintegration
  • No more severe than an adult would receive for the same offence
  • Similar to sentences in similar cases
  • Proportionate to the seriousness of the offence and the degree of responsibility
  • Promote a sense of responsibility and acknowledgement of harm done

Victim Impact Statement

It is important for students to understand how these statements are used at sentencing hearings and how the role and rights of the victim have been expanded under the YCJA. A victim impact statement outline of what to include on the statement is below.

Finish this activity using Handout 3: YCJA Sentencing Principles - Quiz. The quiz answers are found in the content section under Topic 1: YCJA Sentencing Principles.

See Answer Key for Handout 3 in the Assessment section.

Activity 2: Youth Sentencing Options

Prior to doing this activity, have your students read Handout 4: Youth Sentencing Options for homework.  Cover the highlights and discuss the case of Angie Sam Handout 5: Youth Sentencing Options-Scenario.

Further work can be done using the two scenarios in optional Handout 6: Youth in Trouble Case Studies. Working in groups students will use Handout 4 to help them decide what sentence to impose and the reasons for their sentence.

The scenarios in Handout 6 are based on real cases. However, facts have been changed to deal with or to emphasize particular legal principles. Names have been changed to protect identities. What really happened in these cases follows each case in italics.

Case #1: An Unforgettable Evening

Roland and two friends, all in their teens, had a few beer and began cruising the streets hoping to find something to make their evening a little more interesting. Roland was driving too fast when the three noticed a car full of girls. They tried to catch up with the girls and attract their attention but Roland lost control on a sharp curve and his two friends were fatally injured. Roland was convicted of two counts of dangerous driving causing death. Roland felt terrible remorse for the accident and the families of the deceased made submissions to the judge they didn’t think a jail term was warranted. Roland had suffered enough. He had lost his two best friends and felt terrible guilt.

This case is notorious because of the support the parents of the deceased showed for the accused, Kevin Hollinsky (Ontario Supreme Court, 1991) and the sentence given by the judge. Hollinsky was banned from driving for two years. He was placed on probation and given 750 hours of community service. Hollinsky agreed to speak to high school students in the Windsor, Ontario area about the tragic results of his decisions that evening. Police towed the wreckage of his vehicle to display at the school where Hollinsky spoke and the father of one of the deceased attended the speaking engagements to show his support for Hollinsky. (All About Law, Teacher’s Resource, Fourth Edition, ITP Nelson, 1996.)

You can ask your students the following questions at the end of this activity.

  1. How did this sentence compare to the one that you decided on in question one?
  2. Do you think that most parents who had lost a son would agree to this sentence?
  3. Do you think that Kevin was held accountable for his actions and was his sentence a meaningful consequence for his actions?
  4. If one of the purposes of sentencing is deterring others from committing a similar offence do you think that Kevin’s sentence has accomplished that goal?

Case #2 — Flames of Frustration

Joey’s birth mother was an alcoholic who drank heavily while she was pregnant with Joey. Joey was born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). Joey’s mother abandoned him in a northern B.C. hospital shortly after his birth. Joey was taken by the Superintendent of Family and Child Services when he was 10 days old and he has been a ward of the government ever since. A caring foster family raised Joey until his foster mother became too ill to do any more fostering. Joey was 14. His new foster parents didn’t understand Joey’s needs very well. Joey needed a lot of structure in his daily life and the new family couldn’t provide it. Joey got into trouble with the law and ended up in a group home in a rural interior area of the province. Joey managed quite well in the group home until there were a lot of staff changes. He then became quite confused and frustrated. In fact, he tried to start a fire under the home porch, hoping he would be sent away from the place. However, another resident put it out and the staff didn’t do much more than express anger at Joey. However, one evening, while all but a couple of the boys were asleep, Joey set another fire. He removed the fire extinguishers from the home, pushed a couch against one of the doors, doused the place with kerosene and torched it. Most of the residents were awakened and escaped but one teenager could not get out and was killed. The psychiatrist who interviewed Joey explained that the brain of a child afflicted with FAS is injured before birth. She went on to say Joey displayed many of the characteristics of individuals with FAS. Here are some of them:

  • He is easily frustrated
  • He is quick to anger and the extent of his anger often seems out of proportion to the event that caused his anger
  • He is extremely impulsive
  • He does not learn by being told what to do or not to do
  • He is immature for his age
  • He has difficulty relating cause with effect
  • He has no ability to grasp abstract concepts
  • He lives only for the present and does not consider future events

Joey was raised to adult court on a second-degree murder charge. He was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to time in a B.C. Provincial Correctional Facility for adults. There, older inmates brutalized him until the Provincial Ombudsman became involved and had Joey removed from the institution. Under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, youth can receive adult sentences under some circumstances but are no longer raised to adult court.

Additional Case Studies

You can use Handout 7: You Be the Judge Sentencing Case Studies - Optional

if you want to do more scenarios with your students. Below are the case descriptions followed by what the judge did and the explanation of how the YCJA works in such a case. The case descriptions are on the handout and the students can use Handout 4: Youth Sentencing Options to help them to decide on appropriate sentences.

Story 1: Tina

Tina loves to go to the mall. She is 11 years old. She has very little money but she and her friends like to window shop. Sometimes they also try on clothes in the stores. Last Saturday, in one of the stores, Tina put on an expensive sweater under her coat and walked out without paying. The clerk caught her and called the police. The police officers drove Tina home in the police car. They explained to Tina’s parents what had happened. They told the parents that Tina would not be arrested or have to go to court because she was under 12 years old. The police suggested that the parents should do something about Tina’s behaviour.

Tina’s parents were very angry with Tina. They told Tina she couldn’t go out with her friends for three weeks and she could not go to the mall, except with her mother.

The Youth Criminal Justice Act is for young people 12 to 17. Children under 12 are the responsibility of the parents. They can also get help at school, in the community or at a mental health facility.

Story 2: Jackie

Jackie, 13, has some problems at home and got in trouble with the police last year for breaking a window. After dinner, Jackie usually goes out with his friends. Sometimes they go to the park. Sometimes they walk around the neighbourhood and talk. One evening, they found some spray cans of paint in an alley and used the paint to write on the walls of several neighbourhood stores. A store owner saw the boys and called the police. The police caught Jackie with the paint.

Jackie could have ended up in court but instead the problem was handled in another way. Jackie and his parents had to go to a meeting. The store owner was also there. A facilitator helped everyone talk about the problem. Jackie felt bad when he met the store owner and understood that the owner was really upset about the wall. The facilitator helped Jackie and the store owner decide what to do. They made an agreement that Jackie would help repaint the wall.

Some crimes are handled by a facilitator without going to court. Non-violent offences will be handled this way if there is no previous record. The young offender can repay the victim or repair the damage he did. The facilitator talks with the victim, offender and parents to decide how to do this.

Story 3: Shawn

Shawn has been in a lot of trouble in the past few years. He got arrested for breaking into cars when he was 14 and for breaking into a house when he was 15. Both times he was put on probation with some rules to follow. He was told to be home at a certain time and to go to school every day. Shawn didn’t do these things. Now, he is 16. He stole a car one night and went for a drive. The police caught him and he had to go back to court.

This time the court talked about sending him to a special youth jail. Instead, the judge said he had to go to a special wilderness camp in the country for six weeks.

All the young people at the camp had been in trouble. At the camp Shawn learned to work together with the others and to be responsible so the others could depend on him. The camp was very difficult and strict. However, Shawn learned some exciting new skills like kayaking, hiking, rock climbing and taking care of himself in the forest. Shawn was happy that he hadn’t been sentenced to time in custody or jail. The wilderness camp helped him grow up and change. He came back to the city and didn’t get into trouble again.

Sometimes a young person gets into trouble again and again. A special program can help young people change their behaviour. The program may prevent a young person from going to jail. These programs often are more useful than jail in helping young people change.

Story 4: Serena

Serena is 15 years old. She doesn’t live at home because her mother is a drug user in a poor part of the city. Serena has had a difficult life. She lives in a group home — a special home run by the government. Several young people live there and a youth worker supervises them. In the group home, the worker caught Serena buying drugs. Serena also got angry and broke things. Once she hit a youth worker.

The judge said that Serena had a difficult life and that she was trying to change. The judge ordered Serena to be on probation for six months and to follow some rules. For example, she must go to school and she must see a counsellor to help her control her anger. Serena must not take drugs. She must write a letter of apology to the group home. She must do 30 hours of community service (volunteer work). A youth worker will check that she does these things.

Young offenders should receive a sentence that depends on the seriousness of the crime. If the crime is not very serious or minor, rules, supervision and counselling may help youth change their attitudes and behaviour. A judge may decide on this kind of sentence instead of youth jail.

Story 5: Nelson

Nelson is 17 years old. He has often been in trouble with the law. Once he stole a car. While he was driving, he had an accident. The car hit a tree. Nelson ran away but the police caught him. Another time he broke into some houses. Nelson does not live at home. He usually lives on the street. He takes drugs. For a short time he lived in a special home for youth. While he was there, he used drugs. The youth workers at the home told him to leave. Nelson was supposed to go to court but he didn’t.  The court ordered him to do volunteer work in the community but Nelson didn’t do it. A month ago he robbed a store and had to go to court again.

The judge ordered Nelson to live in a special place for one month. This place has special programs to help young people stop using drugs and alcohol. After that, Nelson will be on probation for nine months and he must go to school or get a job. A youth worker will supervise him and make sure he does these things.

Some young people get into trouble because of drugs. To prevent further crimes, these young people need to attend special drug programs. To make them attend the programs, they are ordered to live in a special place. This place is very strict but it is not a jail.

You can use Handout 8: Angie Sam Sentencing Hearing – Optional to help your students see understand the sentence hearing process. You can also chose to do a sentencing simulation on the Angie Sam case (Handout 5) to help your students see what happens in court. Explain the sentence hearing process. Once an accused is convicted of a crime, the judge will impose a sentence. The judge will consider:

  • Whether the person has a criminal record
  • The offender’s lifestyle
  • The attitude and history of the offender
  • The impact on the victim
  • The seriousness of the offence
  • Circumstances surrounding the offence

The judge often asks for more information about the offender. This information is likely to include a pre-sentence report. A probation officer usually prepares the report.

This report includes information from people close to the offender, such as family, friends, teacher or employer. The judge will also consider a victim impact statement from anyone to whom harm was done or who suffered loss as a result of the offence.

This simulation refers to Angie Sam’s pre-sentence report. Before you start the simulation, explain what a pre-sentence report is, so students will understand what the lawyers and judge are referring to. Read the report on the following page to the students. Also review the victim impact statement of Sally John below.

Alternatively, you can read the facts of the case from the sentencing hearing. Have half the class prepare a pre-sentence report and half the class prepare a victim impact statement. Use the blank forms which are included at the end of the sentencing hearing. Then compare with the actual reports which are included here.

Assign roles: sheriff, court clerk, the Crown, the defence, the accused (Angie Sam), and the judge. Distribute a copy of the script which is Handout 8: Angie Sam Sentencing Hearing to all participants. Describe the case briefly, as follows:

Angie has been convicted of confining the victim, Sally John, contrary to section 279(2) of the Criminal Code of Canada. This means Angie held Sally against her will and did not let her leave when she wanted to. Before the judge would decide on a sentence, he or she held a hearing to gather more information about Angie’s life and circumstances. The judge asked for a pre-sentence report. The pre-sentence report provided information about Angie’s personal and family life and the problems she was having.

Angie, who is 16 years of age and Aboriginal, has been abusing alcohol and drugs. She does not come from a stable home environment. Her father physically abused her mother. Her father has since left the family. Her mother is supportive but cannot control Angie. Angie has had two previous convictions, one for assault with a weapon and another for assault causing bodily harm. This is Angie‘s third conviction for a violent offence. Angie is quick tempered and gets into fights. She describes fighting as "a hobby." She has been getting some counselling for her anger and her drug and alcohol problems. Angie is not a strong student but lately has been doing really well in school.

Conduct the role play and debrief. Have your students reflect on what happened at the sentencing hearing. Do they think the sentence was fair? Why or why not? What do they think will happen to Angie?

Activity 3: Adult Sentences for Youth

Cover the highlights under content with your students using the summary section. Use the scenario on Handout 9: Adult Sentences for Youth-Scenario to reinforce the ideas. Handout 10: Adult Sentences for Youth-Quiz could be used for assessment.

See Answer Key for Handout 10 in the Assessment section.

Activity 4: Publication of Identity of Offender

Cover the highlights under content with your students using the summary section. Use the scenario on Handout 11: Publication of Identity of Offender-Scenario and have students work with it in groups to come up with advantages and disadvantages for youth.  Students can present their conclusions to the class. Below are some ideas.

List advantages and disadvantages to Eddie if his name is not published



Can have a normal life, neighbours, friends, job

Youth has little responsibility in eyes of public

Will grow up to be a good citizen

May re-offend

Can grow and change if people don’t think him “bad”

Less public responsibility to be involved in community programs

Does not contribute to false sense of security, i.e. that people without criminal records are necessarily all good.


List advantages and disadvantages to the community if name is not published



Public doesn’t worry

Community can’t protect itself if the young person reoffends

Other family members have privacy

The young person may do it again

Activity 5: Youth and Adult Records

Have students read Handout 12: Youth and Adult Records for homework or go over it in class. Expand on some of the material by discussing the following facts. Then have students complete Handout 13: Youth and Adult Records-Quiz.

Did You Know?

  • It is a crime to not complete a sentence. If youth don’t finish the sentence they were given in court, they can be charged with another crime called a breach. For example, if the young offender has been ordered not to contact a co-accused and is found in his or her company, s/he is breaching the sentence. A finding of guilt on this new charge extends the time that the youth record stays open.
  • Notices given to youth by the police or the court such as an Appearance Notice, Promise to Appear or a Recognizance mean that they must appear in court on a certain date. If they do not, they are committing a new crime called "failing to appear." Being found guilty of this extends the time that their youth record is open.
  • A potential boss can ask youth to go to the police and prove that they have no record. The police will give youth a copy of their own record. Youth can then give this record to their boss. Teachers are asked to do this before they can teach students.
  • Other countries do not have access to the youth record except in very limited circumstances. However, if another country does obtain the information, they may decide to keep it in their files well after the end of the access period. Only in Canada does the youth record have to be closed after a certain time. Any record, no matter how minor the offence, can keep someone from getting into other countries.

    For example, in the United States, it is often up to the individual border guard to decide whether youth get in. If youth have a youth record and it has been shared with the U.S., it is impossible to know when they might be refused entry. The U.S. is one of the countries where youth may need a travel waiver to enter if they have a record. It is best to verify with the immigration office of the country before visiting.

See Answer Key for Handout 13 in the Assessment section.