Marc Trioreau, RCMP Community Policing Officer for the Trinity Conception
New Youth Criminal Justice Act (February
2003) Last week I attended a training session on the new Youth Criminal Justice Act that will take effect in April 2003. The Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) replaces the Young Offender's Act. It sets out the laws and procedures that apply to young people aged twelve to seventeen. The YCJA changes the way the Canadian Justice System looks at youth crimes and victimization. Here are some highlights of this new legislation.
1908-1984: Juvenile Delinquents Act
1984-2003: The Young Offender's Act
2003-.......: The Youth Criminal Justice Act
Goals of the YCJA:
To be more effective and promote accountability, the YCJA focuses on three goals:
Make youth more accountable and responsible for their actions and make it clear that criminal behavior will:
- lead to meaningful consequences
- make a distinction between violent and non-violent crimes
- make every effort possible to prevent youth crime and support young people involved in criminal activities to turn their life around
Many people felt that the way the Young Offender's Act approached youth criminal activity had to be changed. The YCJA recognizes this and develops a new approach. Here are four key steps:
-Flexibility for the different provinces: Within a specific framework, the law will allow for greater provincial flexibility. This allows the provinces to choose options that meet their specific needs.
-Different treatment for violent and non-violent crimes: Various crimes should be treated in a variety of ways.
-The government and the general public feel that violent crimes should be treated differently than non-violent crimes. The YCJA will recognize that a co-operative and integrated approach to youth crime: Some youth crimes should be dealt with outside the typical courtroom setting.
-Groups that specialize in areas such as mental health, child welfare, education, social services, and employment will work together with the community to find a solution to criminal problems.
How it affects young people:
The YCJA has made certain changes to the laws that affect young people. Some of the important ones are:
1. Staying Outside of Court: if a youth commits a minor offence there will be an effort made to deal with it outside the court. This will focus on being held accountable. This can include: verbal warnings and police cautions, informal police programs such as a family group conference (this would involve the youth, the youth's family, the victim, and others), community service, or compensation to the victim.
2. Conferences: These are meetings to assist a decision maker, such as a police officer, in deciding what next step to take. The purpose is to take other parties into consideration and get input from them before deciding on appropriate action. Conferences include: Community justice forum: where youth, the youth's family, the victims, and others address the problems that occurred. Youth Justice Committees: (new name for alternative measures) a group specializing in youth find solutions to the crime. Community accountability panels: the community members, victim, and family work together to find a solution that works for all parties involved. School mediation program: Police officers, school officials, parents, and parties involved work together to find solutions to the problem
3. Names and Publication: Under the Young Offender's Act, the youth's name would not be published unless he or she were being tried in adult court, with the new system, all names of youth may be published who:
Received an adult sentence.
Who are found guilty of murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, aggravated sexual assault, or repeat violent offences
Are presently missing and considered dangerous and "unlawfully at large"
If a youth has been found guilty of a presumptive offence, as defined in the Act, their name shall be
published. Unless, at the sentence hearing, the young person or the Attorney General wishes to make an application for a ban on publication.
4. Sentencing: Custody, as a general rule, is reserved for violent and repeating offenders, the court has the power to use adult sentences in certain cases. The sentence a youth receives will be a fair consequence for the offence he or she committed. The legal system is encouraged to use community-based sentencing such as community service, victim compensation, or probation. The presumption of an adult sentence on a young person for certain offences has been lowered to the age
Sentences can be one of several options. These include:
The sentence can now include plans for treatment and supervision for high-risk, violent offenders
5. Custody and Release: Requires that, while in custody, young people are not in the same institution as adult criminals. Provinces can now decide where a young person will be placed in custody. Provinces can keep a young person in the youth justice system until the maximum age of 20 or beyond this age where appropriate. There is more than one level of custody as determined by the court while in custody, youth will work with a youth worker and will develop a plan to follow when he or she is released from custody, after being released from custody, young people will generally be under some form of community supervision for a period of half the custodial portion of their sentence. There are conditions the youth has to follow during their community supervision. Some are mandatory, others are optional and include: keeping the peace and good behavior, regularly reporting to the provincial director.
Why is the YCJA a positive change?
1.It has clear principles for dealing with each aspect of the act
2.It encourages crime prevention efforts
3.It takes the needs of different provinces and communities into consideration
4.It encourages more effective programs and more innovative approaches
5.It encourages partnerships with communities and community organizations
6.It requires police to consider other options before going to court
7.It has a new non-custodial sentence
8.It recognizes and supports the principle of reintegration for those sentenced into custody
This new law will take effect on April 1st 2003.
If you have any suggestions, ideas or
comments in relation to this article, please feel free to let me know.