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Youth Criminal Lawyers

Crime Statistics

One of the primary goals of the Canadian criminal justice system is to prevent youth crime and rehabilitate young offenders. Statistics Canada collects data on youth criminality and trends in crime rates. There are special rules surrounding the prosecution of young people, including revealing their identity to the public, which can also apply to adults in some circumstances.

National Criminal Code Violations in 2021
Youth Offences related to Property Crime
Youth Homicides in Canada in 2021
Number of Youth Sexual Assault Offences

Frequently Asked Questions

Canadian law has special procedures to deal with youth offenders. These procedures focus on rehabilitating offenders and giving them access to community services. Many municipalities understand the issues posed by youth crime. The Peel Regional Police Service, which serves Mississauga tracks yearly statistics related to youth crime. In 2021, 501 total youths were charged with some type of criminal offence. That number rose to 685 in 2022.

Can a Parent in Mississauga Go with Their Child to the Police Station if They are Arrested? 

Parents are allowed to go with their children to the police station. If they are not with their child during the arrest, they are encouraged to meet them at the station as soon as possible. A parent or guardian can be present during questioning. This is important, as a familiar adult presence can help to calm a youth and help them understand the process they are about to go through. It is unlikely that a parent would be allowed to go with their child through the intake process, but that may involve photographing the accused youth and taking their fingerprints on another day.

Department of Justice Canada recommends that parents help their child find legal representation. A parent should also do their best to become informed about the process their child is about to face. This will enable them to help with important decisions and to fulfill the youth’s obligations. While parents often have their child’s best interests at heart, in these situations they should not try to fix the problem themselves and take advantage of their child’s right to counsel.

Can a Youth Have Their Lawyer Present in the Room While Being Questioned by the Police? 

If a youth who has been arrested and charged with an offence is taken to a police station to be questioned, they may have their lawyer accompany them during questioning. A lawyer would do their best to provide reassurance and guidance to the accused youth. Being questioned by the police can be an intimidating process and this is all the truer for children who often lack the maturity of adults. Many officers have developed skills relating to questioning suspects that are designed to coax information and admissions out. This is particularly common where there may not be much evidence of the offence, which may lead the officer to lie about the strength of the case against the youth or exploit their vulnerable emotional state.

Having a lawyer will ensure that the accused can more fully understand and participate in the process knowing that their rights are protected. This is one of the key principles set out under s. 3 of the Youth Criminal Justice Act. A lawyer will inform an accused of their rights, including the right to remain silent during questioning which is guaranteed as part of a person’s right to life, liberty, and security of the person.

It is important to note that there is some risk to having a lawyer accompany a youth during questioning. By appearing with the accused while they are being formally questioned, the lawyer risks becoming a witness in the case. As a witness, the lawyer would be in a conflict of interest in the case and would no longer be able to represent the accused.

How Criminal Charges can be Resolved in Canada

Donich Law - Assault Punishments

Can the Police Talk to a Youth Without Their Parent Present in Mississauga?

When a youth is detained or arrested, the police must notify their parent or guardian as soon as possible. The notice informs the parent of the place of detention and the reason the youth was arrested. As mentioned above, a youth can have their parent or a lawyer present during questioning. However, the police can question the youth without another adult present. In these circumstances, it is important that a youth knows they are not required to answer the police’s questions.

Can a Youth Go to Jail?

A youth can be sentenced to a period of imprisonment, but it would be an uncommon sentence. The sentencing principles of the YCJA prioritize the rehabilitation of youth offenders. Based on these principles, the YCJA gives youth court judges access to a wide range of sentencing options and also contains various extrajudicial measures.

Extrajudicial measures are designed to help avoid a formal court proceeding by referring the youth to a community program that will help them address the underlying causes of their criminal behaviour in the hopes of curbing the chances of reoffending. Section 42 of the YCJA sets out sentencing options with the understanding that a prison sentence be imposed as a last resort. Depending on the circumstances of each case, the outcome may range from the youth offender being reprimanded by the judge, to a period of imprisonment. Imprisonment is most common for youths guilty of violent offences or those with existing criminal records.

Consequences of a Criminal Record

Can a Youth be Held for Bail?

A youth can be held for a bail hearing just like an adult person accused of an offence as set out under s. 28 of the YCJA. The police have the discretion whether to release an accused youth at the scene once they have been arrested and charged. It is assumed that most accused youth will be released in this way if they promise to comply with the proceeding that will follow. However, the police can hold an accused youth for bail if they are charged with a serious or violent offence, there is a substantial risk that they will not make a required appearance in a youth court, there is a significant chance they may reoffend, or they have a previous youth criminal record.

If held for bail, the youth will have a bail hearing in a youth court. There a judge may impose conditions on their release if they believe it is necessary to ensure the accused appears in court, to ensure the safety of any victims or witnesses, is reasonable given the context of the alleged offence, and the young person will be able to comply with these conditions. In many cases release conditions will place the accused in the care of a surety. A surety is a third party who will ensure that an accused will comply with their bail conditions. A surety will often be a youth’s parent or guardian, provided they are fit for and willing to take on the task. A surety is the strictest bail condition and relatively uncommon for adult offenders. However, given the lack of maturity and increased dependence of youth, they are far more common in this context.

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Recent Cases

R. v. O.B., 2022 ONCJ 413

This Ontario Court of Justice case explores a concept known as the gateway to custody in youth criminal case. This case dealt with a youth offender who was convicted of several offences. The offence for which the Crown sought a period of imprisonment was possession of drugs for the purpose of trafficking. Section 39(1)(d) of the YCJA allows for a prison sentence to be issued for some non-violent offences due to the seriousness of a given offence and its exceptional nature. It was revealed that the offender had been trafficking fentanyl and had tried to dispose of the evidence when stopped by police. It was also determined that he had been trafficking since the age of 12 and was on bail at the time of the offence at issue.

The defence contended that the offender’s behaviour was due in part to his exposure to poverty and violence at home, along with severe mental health challenges and a learning disability. It was also relevant that the offender had begun taking steps to rehabilitate himself. These factors were considered, but the determining element for sentencing was that the police had violated the offender’s rights by neglecting to inform him of the right to counsel. This violation required a remedy, and in addition to the existing context, the judge found a custodial sentence was not necessary. He was given two years of probation with a $60 fine among other conditions. This sentence meant that the offender was being held accountable for his actions, while imposing accountability on the justice system to reinforce the principle that youth offenders are entitled to enhanced protections in the criminal process.

R. v. R.D., 2019 ONSC 4468

This Ontario Superior Court of Justice is an example of a case where an adult sentence to a youth offender. Here, the offender was a 16-year-old male who pled guilty to several offences related to the robbery of multiple jewelry stores. The robberies were planned out, deliberate, and caused injury to a victim. Given the context for this offence, the Crown sought for the offender to be sentenced under the Criminal Code.

For youth offenders, there is typically a presumption that they are less morally blameworthy for criminal actions because of a lack of development and maturity. However, that presumption can be set aside in some cases when some offenders are close to adulthood. The Crown was able to point to evidence that the accused willingly participated in the offence, that he did not suffer from any mental or physical health challenges that impaired his judgement, and that he had violated his bail conditions while awaiting trial. Despite the offender’s commitment to his own rehabilitation, the judge found that only an adult sentence would represent meaningful consequences for these serious offences. He was given a total sentence of seven years imprisonment along with a DNA order and a lifetime weapons ban.

R. v. K.M., 2019 ONCJ 428

This matter before the Ontario Court of Justice reviews some of the aspects of pre-trial release in youth cases. The accused here was seeking to change the conditions of his undertaking on release in connection with sexual assault with a weapon and assault with a weapon charges. The original terms of the undertaking prevented the accused from communicating with eight people connected to the charge. Six were witnesses in the accused’s grade at school and two were victims in a grade below. Both the Crown and defence agreed that the condition on not contacting the witnesses was unnecessary. This was because it was not required for public safety and could overly impact the accused’s access to education and social development.

Prior to a trial all accused persons enjoy the right to innocence until they are proven guilty. Release and bail conditions are restrictions on an accused’s life that do not amount to criminal penalties. They are meant to protect society and the victims of crime while infringing on the accused’s life as little as possible. These conditions are meant to be complied with it should not be difficult for the accused to do so. This is true even with the enhanced protections and procedures requiring consideration of both the accused and victims’ circumstances in youth cases. A direct impact on education and the kind of social development the YCJA looks to promote is too onerous for a valid release condition.

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About the Author

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Jordan Donich

Jordan Donich has been a Lawyer for over 10 years and is a trusted legal analyst by Canadian Media. He is as a leader in Canada’s tech sector for lawyers and developer of Law Newbie. Jordan is a Black Belt with the Japan Karate Association and trained in Krav Maga. He won a Gold Medal at 2004 Canadian National Championships and was published in the National Newspaper Awards.

Jordan has been featured in Forbes and is a member of DMZ Angels in Toronto.