Lesson 7: Youth Criminal Justice Act - Sentencing and Records


Sentencing Principles

  1. Visit youth court on a day when they have some sentencing hearings. Do you think the judge is following the sentencing principles?  Do you think the sentences are appropriate? Report back to the class.
  2. Compare and contrast the sentencing principles in the Criminal Code of Canada with those in the Youth Criminal Justice Act.  What is the same and what is different?  Report back to the class.

Youth Sentencing Options  

  1. You Be the Judge! Read the following case study and decide what sentence you would give to each of the accused. Explain why you have decided on that sentence and discuss what factors you considered.

The Gang Wannabes Home Invasion

Regina vs. Louis Warn and Brian Kent

Louis and Brian are 14 years old. They break into a home. An elderly couple is at home during the invasion and the husband attempts to defend his property. The husband falls to the ground during the scuffle with the two boys. He hits his head on the coffee table and gets a severe head wound. He dies within minutes of the paramedics arriving at the home. The boys are found guilty of break and enter and manslaughter. Louis is a repeat offender who has committed two serious violent offences and Brian has no criminal record.

In the case above, what principle of sentencing did you need to keep in mind before you sentenced the youth? What kind of information could you have looked at before you sentenced the youth? What kind of weight did you give to the fact of the youth being in trouble with the law before? Do you think that you arrived at an appropriate and fair sentence for each of the youth? Explain.

  1. Read the series of cases below and decide which option you would recommend to the judge if you were Crown counsel. Try the exercise again as defence counsel. Was there a difference in your recommendations to the judge? Explain.
    • Tom, 14, broke into cars and stole a lot of change. He has never been in trouble before.
    • Rachel, 15, ran away from home. She lived on the street and then with some friends. Last year, she got caught shoplifting and was put on probation. Recently, she got caught using drugs.
    • Sam, 17, broke into a house and was carrying out the things he stole when a man came home and stopped him. Sam had a knife. He stabbed the man and ran away. The man went to hospital but later died.
    • Rita, 13, stole some CDs from a local music store. It is the first time she has been in trouble.
    • Joe, 16, broke into his neighbour’s house. He stole a computer. This was his second offence.
    • Vinnie, 16, has been in a lot of fights at school. He and some friends threatened and hit younger students to get money.
    • Bill, 15, recently got caught joyriding (stealing a car to go for a ride). It’s not the first time he has been in trouble. He has been on probation for stealing cars and damaging people’s property. The last time he went to court, the judge told him to stay in school and do community service. He didn’t.
    • Ken, 17, has been in trouble many times for getting into fights. One night, he and his friends went downtown and got into a fight with some other guys. Ken hit one of them. The youth that Ken hit fell and cracked his head open. He was badly injured and is still in hospital.
  1. Once you have the Crown and Defence counsel recommendations in the cases in question 2, you be the judge and decide what to do with each of the youth. Give reasons for your decisions.

Adult Sentences for Youth

  1. Work with a partner and another team to prepare a debate on the following topic:

BE IT RESOLVED that the law should allow youth as young as 14 to receive adult sentences for serious violent offences including murder, attempted murder, manslaughter and aggravated sexual assault. Present the debate to the rest of the class and have them decide who has argued the topic more effectively.

  1. Generally, the law that regulates the youth criminal justice system in Canada is the same in every province. Under the YCJA, the provinces have been given authority to decide to have some provisions apply to different age groups. For example, the province can choose the age at which the presumption for an adult sentence applies.  What type of considerations do you think the province takes into account for deciding on this age?  Why do you think the age is different in BC and Quebec?
  1. The provincial government passed a law called the Youth Justice Act. It allows for custody of youth who:
    • Fail to comply with a youth sentence
    • Bring contraband into or trespass on youth custody or correctional centre grounds
    • Help someone leave a mental health facility unlawfully
    • Trespass on school grounds
    • Do not follow a protective intervention or restraining order
    • Drive while prohibited or with a suspended licence

Why do you think this legislation was enacted? Do you think it follows the same principles of the YCJA? Research the Act by searching www.legis.gov.bc.ca and www.gov.bc.ca. Write a report on your findings and present it to the class.

Publication of Identity of Offender

  1. Form two teams of four people to prepare a debate on the following topic: BE IT RESOLVED that the media should be able to publish the names of all youth convicted of offences. Present the debate to the rest of the class and have them decide who has argued the topic more effectively.
  1. Read the following cases and decide in which cases the names of the youth would be published. Explain why you think so.


Donna, 17, has been an excellent student. Her parents don't understand her recent behaviour since she made two new friends and spends a lot of time with them. Donna does not come home on time anymore and her study habits are falling apart. The police arrived at Donna’s parents’ door one day with a search warrant. It turns out that Donna and her friends stole credit cards from several purses belonging to their teachers and friends’ parents. They ordered merchandise from the Internet using the stolen credit card numbers. The purchases were traced back to Donna's computer.


Van, 15, has been in and out of trouble since he was 12. He has been convicted three times for violent offences. Van no longer attends school regularly. Van tried to buy a package of cigarettes from a convenience store, but the clerk asked for identification. Van got into an argument with the clerk. After much shouting, Van left the store without the cigarettes. He returned with a knife and a mask and demanded the cigarettes. The clerk pressed the silent alarm button. Van suspected that the clerk had alerted the police with the silent alarm, so he reached across the counter and punched the clerk in the face.

The clerk fell to the floor with a broken jaw. Another blow to the side of his head left him with permanent hearing loss in one ear. As Van took the cigarettes and left, the clerk heard him muttering that he would have to go to another store to get what he wanted. "This time," he muttered, "I’m taking a gun." The clerk suspected that the masked thief was Van because of the previous argument and his voice. The clerk gave a description of Van to the police.


David, 12, has been in and out of several foster homes in the last three years. His behaviour has been a problem at all of the homes. He does not attend school regularly. Many cars in David's neighbourhood have been broken into and electronics and change have been stolen. Sometimes, the car windows or locks were broken. David is in the lane behind his house and a neighbour phones the police because of David's suspicious behaviour. The police arrive and David runs away.

  1. Choose one of the cases above where you think the name of the youth will be published. Write up a media release to be used by newspaper, television and radio reporters. It should include the five W’s (who, what, where, when, and why). Read the release to your class.

Youth and Adult Records

  1. Prepare a five-question survey using the information you learned about in Handout 12: Youth and Adult Records. Ask your parents, family or friends to participate in your survey. Try to survey at least five participants. Your survey questions need to be True or False or Yes or No questions for ease in tabulating the results. Prepare a summary of the results of the survey and present them to the class. A sample of the type of question you may want to include is: A youth record will always disappear at the age of 18. True or False?         
  1. Create a crossword puzzle or a word search for your class on youth records. You can use up to ten words. Use the information in Handout 12: Youth and Adult Records as a basis for your work. Make an answer key for your crossword puzzle or word search.
  2. Create your own board or trivia game about youth records and adult records. You will have to make the board and game cards and a set of rules for playing your game. You can also include score cards, money if needed and game pieces to be used while playing the game. Try playing your game with a few classmates or test whether your game really works by playing it with another class in a different grade.
  1. Interview someone who hires employees to find out what they would do if a youth applied for the job and had a criminal record. Ask how the employer would phrase questions about this to discover if the youth had a record and ask how much the knowledge would affect the decision to hire that youth. Share what you have learned with your class.