Youth Criminal Justice Act (“YCJA”)

Najma Jamaldin, along with lawyers in her law chambers, offer legal services in criminal and regulatory defences and appeals.

How is the youth criminal justice system different from the adult justice system?

The Youth Criminal Justice Act (“YCJA”) applies to youth between 12 and 17 years old. However, after a young person turns 18 years old, the law treats them as adults where prosecutions occur under the Criminal Code or the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

What is the focus of the youth criminal justice system?

The law recognizes that young people lack the maturity of an adult. For that reason, rather than strictly punishing a young person for wrongdoing, the court focuses on the youth’s rehabilitation and reintegration into society.

What are the principles that guide the youth criminal justice system?

The driving principles of the YCJA include the following:
i. An awareness that the interests of victims are protected through meaningful consequences, rehabilitation, and reintegration for the young person;
ii. A commitment that the youth justice system should only apply the most severe consequences for the most serious crimes to reduce incarceration;
iii. A focus on applying measures that balance the seriousness of the offence and with the young person’s level of responsibility;
iv. A view that the community should strive to prevent youth crime by addressing its underlying causes and supporting young person; and
v. A recognition of the uniqueness of a young person’s rights and freedoms.

Is it possible for youth to avoid the criminal justice system?

The youth criminal justice system offers diversion from the criminal justice system through “extrajudicial measures.” This means “outside the court.” These extrajudicial measures offer volunteer work, compensating the victim or taking specialized treatment to address wrongdoing rather than a criminal conviction and jail.

Who can divert matters?

Either the police or the Crown can initiate diversion. Police diversion occurs even before they lay charges. However, should the police charge the young person, the Crown can offer extrajudicial measures.

What happens after the young person completes the extrajudicial measures?

If the youth agrees to extrajudicial measures, admits responsibility for the misconduct, and completes the agreed-upon program, the Crown will withdraw the charges against the youth.