Young people in Canadian law are defined as those who are at least 12 years old but under 18 years old. People in that age range have a separate justice system governed by the Youth Criminal Justice Act. The act does not create or modify existing offences found in the Criminal Code, but it does modify certain rights and procedures for young people.
The primary focus of the youth system is rehabilitation. The youth system is meant to move much more swiftly than the adult system, given young people’s slower perception of time. Law enforcement and prosecutors are also encouraged to use out-of-court resolutions much more frequently for youth.
In practice, while pre-trial detention and custody are rarer for youth, courts often take a paternalistic view of youth sentencing, imposing unnecessarily broad conditions that can have a punitive effect notwithstanding that they are imposed with the intent to promote rehabilitation. In addition, the courts sometimes view youth offences as aggravating if they were committed against other youth, since youth victims are also more vulnerable victims.
Youth criminal records are sealed but will become part of a youth’s adult criminal record if the young person is convicted of an offence within three years after they’ve turned 18. Youth criminal records can also be disclosed in a Police Information Check with Vulnerable Sector screening (“PIC-VS”).
You can find some of the firm’s case results for youth offences HERE.