The Youth Criminal Justice Act, or YCJA, is the federal law that governs youth justice system. It applies to youth aged 12 to 17 who get into trouble with the law. The YCJA came into force in 2003 and was amended in 2012 to strengthen its handling of violent and repeat young offenders. The following provides a brief overview of key components of the law.
Youth criminal justice act Principles
The youth criminal justice act states that the youth criminal justice system is intended to protect the public by holding youth accountable, promoting the rehabilitation and reintegration of youth back into society, and preventing crime. It provides that the youth criminal justice system must be separate from the adult system and based on the principle that youth are presumed to be less morally blameworthy than adults. In other words, the law recognizes that youth must be held accountable, but in a way that takes into account their greater dependency and reduced level of maturity.
What is the youth criminal justice act for youth who are at least 12
The youth criminal justice act states that the criminal justice system for youth must implement special procedures to ensure that young people are treated fairly and that their rights are protected. It also emphasizes the importance of timely intervention to reinforce the link between the offence and its consequences.
The majority of youth crimes involve non-violent activities such as shoplifting, possession of stolen property, breach of probation, or relatively minor assaults that do not involve bodily harm. Experience and other countries shows that measures outside of the formal court process can provide an effective response to youth crime and one of the key objectives of the youth criminal justice act is to encourage the use of non-court responses in appropriate cases.
These extrajudicial measures can provide meaningful consequences, such as requiring the young person to repair the harm done to the victim. They also allow early intervention with young people and provide an opportunity for the broader community to play an important role in developing community-based responses to youth crime.
The most formal type of extrajudicial measure is an extrajudicial sanction. These sanctions, such as volunteer work, compensating (or paying back) the victim, or attending a specialized program, can be used where the young person takes responsibility for the offence. If the young person fails to comply with the terms and conditions of the sanction, the case may proceed through the court process. Extrajudicial sanctions must be applied through a program approved by the Attorney General.
If a young person’s case is not resolved through extrajudicial measures, it will be dealt with in youth court. When a young person is charged with an offence, he or she may remain in the community or, if the court deems it necessary, be kept in custody until the trial takes place. Being held in custody while awaiting trial is known as pre-trial detention.
If a youth pleads guilty or is found guilty of a criminal offence, the youth court judge must determine the appropriate sentence. The purpose of youth sentences is to hold the young person accountable by imposing sanctions that have meaningful consequences and that promote rehabilitation and reintegration. The YCJA provides youth court judges with many different sentencing options to deal with the full range of youth crime.
What is the youth criminal justice act that governs youth justice system?
These include both community-based sentences — where the youth serves his or her sentence in the community, often under strict conditions — and custody sentences, which include both a period of time in a youth custody facility and a period of community supervision. The maximum length of youth sentences ranges from two to ten years, depending on the offence committed and the type of sentence imposed.
Under the YCJA, custody sentences are intended primarily for violent offenders and serious repeat offenders. The YCJA also allows judges to impose an intensive rehabilitative custody and supervision order if a youth has been found guilty of a serious violent offence and is suffering from a mental, psychological or emotional disorder. In these cases, an individualized treatment plan is developed for the young person.
What is the youth criminal justice act in respect of criminal justice for young persons
While in most cases judges impose one of the youth sentencing options in the YCJA, the Act does allow judges to impose an adult sentence on a youth who is found guilty of a serious offence and was 14 years of age or older when the crime was committed. In fact, prosecutors are obligated to consider seeking an adult sentence when a youth is found guilty of murder, attempted murder, manslaughter or aggravated sexual assault. However, the Act allows provinces to rise the age at which this obligation applies to 15 or 16.
While youth court proceedings take place in open court, meaning that members of the public can attend and observe the proceedings, the YCJA does contain specific provisions regarding the publication of a youth’s identity. As a general rule, no identifying information that would reveal that a young person has been dealt with by the youth justice system can be published. The rationale for this general rule is that publication can undermine efforts to rehabilitate and reintegrate young people back into the community.
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