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Youth Criminal Lawyer

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Frequently Asked Questions

Will People Find Out About My Youth Charges in Cobourg and Peterborough?

The Court is a public forum, and therefore any person can watch court proceedings. If a lawyer is hired, they may appear on behalf of the young person. A lawyer may also apply for publication bans, which are orders forbidding the revelation of identities associated with a witness, complainant, accused, or any person in a criminal case. A publication ban for a youth court may not be entirely necessary, as young persons are already protected under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

The Youth Criminal Justice Act protects young persons by keeping the charges private. Under the YCJA, the media can only reveal the gender and age of the young offender. There can be no identifying information published in any format. The accused’s identity may only be found out if they are seen physically attending court, which can be averted in some cases by having a lawyer appear on the young person’s behalf. A lawyer is instrumental in protecting both the young person and their identity.

Are Sentencing Options the Same as Those for Adult Offenders?

No, sentencing options are not the same as those for adult offenders. A youth sentence is not the same as an adult sentence. Section 64(1) of the YCJA allows the Crown to suggest an adult sentence if the young person has been found guilty of a certain type of offence. This offence must be a serious violent offence with a penalty of more than two years in prison, which has been committed after the young person has turned 14 years old.

Custody for young people is also very different from custody for adults. Adult sentences can result in jail time, which is the most severe punishment the criminal court offers. However, detaining youths in prison may lead to even more criminality. Therefore, youth facilities are kept separate from adult facilities. There are two levels of custody: open custody youth facilities and secure custody youth facilities. Open custody are usually residences located within the community, where the youth may access support and staff supervised programming. Secure custody is stricter, with higher security measures and access to the community must be approved. Young individuals will only be sent to prison as a last resort, which is not true for adult offenders.

Do I Need a Pardon or a Record Suspension to Remove My Youth Records?

The primary goal of the Youth Criminal Justice Act is to assist in rehabilitating young offenders. Sections 110-129 of the YCJA details the exact rules regarding accessing and disclosing youth records. There are strict restrictions to access to records according to the YCJA because it is not in the public interest to prematurely label young offenders as criminals. That is, unless the young offender is subjected to an adult sentence, which be held under the Criminal Records Act.

Under section 118(1) of the YCJA, no person is allowed access to records unless allowed by the Act. There is an access period available for youth records before it is sealed. An access period may commence after either an extrajudicial measure or sanction has been conducted, a young person is acquitted, reprimanded, or found guilty. Depending on the circumstances, access periods may range from five years to two months. For example, if a young person is acquitted, the access period ends after two months of the acquittal. However, if a young person is convicted, the young person’s records may be kept available for five years after the end of a sentence. As a result of the access period, it is not necessary for an individual convicted of a young offence to apply for a pardon or record suspension, as their record would be automatically sealed after five years. An individual seeking a record suspension must wait at least five years after their sentence has completed to apply. So, the record would be sealed by the time the individual became eligible for a record suspension, making the record suspension moot.

Stages of the Criminal Justice System

Donich Law - Assault Punishments

Can I Get My Youth Charges Dropped?

Yes, the Crown may drop the charges for a young person in Cobourg or Peterborough. The young person has a presumption of diminished moral blameworthiness under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This is a result of the young person’s age, as the young person is more vulnerable, immature, and has a reduced capacity for moral judgement—which requires years to develop. Scientific evidence also shows that the human brain does not fully mature until the age of 25. Therefore, it is often easier to get a youth charge withdrawn than an adult charge, unless the offence is a serious or violent crime.

Crowns in Cobourg or Peterborough may drop the charges for two reasons: if there is no public interest in prosecution, or there is no reasonable prospect of conviction. If the incident was minor, the police may not even lay a charge. Instead, they may issue extrajudicial measures under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. Extrajudicial measures are actions the police can take that does not bring the young person before the court. These extrajudicial measures may include things such as taking no further action, warnings (both informal warnings and formal cautions), a referral to a community program or agency, a Crown caution, or an extrajudicial sanction. These measures assure prompt and speedy responses to incidents and are often sufficiently appropriate and effective.

How to Defend Assault Charges

What is Included in a Pre-Sentence Report?

Under section 39(6), the presiding must order a pre-sentence report before committing a young person to any custodial sentence. A pre-sentence report is a report prepared by the probation officer to provide more information on the offender, so that the judge may order a holistic sentence more suitable to the offender’s rehabilitation. Pre-sentence reports are ordered after the offender has been convicted. These reports usually include any family history, as well as interviews with parents about the offender’s childhood. To gain a complete picture of the incident and the offender’s circumstances, they will usually interview the offender, the offender’s immediate family, and if possible, the offender’s extended family. A further interview may be possible with the victim.

A pre-sentence report will also include any information that is applicable to the case. For example, the age, maturity, behaviour and attitude of the young person as well as their willingness to make amends may be included in the pre-sentence report. If the young person has shown genuine remorse and has plans to make reparations and improve upon themselves, it may be included in the pre-sentence report. The report will also suggest available community services and facilities, describe relationships between the young person and their family, as well as include school or employment records. In turn, the pre-sentence report will influence the judicial decision on the sentence.

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Recent Cases

R. v. Hornick, 2019 ONCJ 817

In the Ontario Court of Justice case of R. v. Hornick, the accused pled guilty to second degree murder. The incident arose from a mistaken belief. The accused had been subject to a robbery, which was a humiliating event for him. He thought the victim participated in the robbery, and acting in revenge, stabbed the victim with a dagger, resulting in the victim’s death. The offender was 17 years old when the incident occurred.

Detailing the offender’s personal and family background, the Court took note of the offender’s bi-racial identity as well as his complicated family situation. His mother had mental health issues that were not addressed, and at times, rendered it unsafe for her to care for her child. Child Protection Services have been involved in the offender’s early life. The offender’s father, despite several efforts, could not manage his son’s behaviour. Group homes were not suitable for the offender either, as he had oppositional behaviour that made his living situation unstable. The youth has experience in six different youth detention facilities since his arrest, and has a history of defiance, intimidation, and physical aggression towards facility staff and peers. The offender was sentenced to life imprisonment as an adult.

R. v. D.R., 2018 ONCJ 900 

In the Ontario Court of Justice case of R. v. D. R., the accused was convicted of killing an animal kept for a lawful purpose, wilfully destroying or damaging property, and breaching bail conditions. The defendant had intentionally killed a rabbit in what he said was a “blind rage” after being denied food in a group home. He did this in an act of threat and intimidation, and he killed the rabbit while a youth worker watched. The defendant also indicated to another worker that he felt no remorse.

A pre-sentence report was prepared for the offender. The defendant was placed into the care of Children’s and Family Services at the age of four due to family violence, neglect, and issues in parenting capacity. When he was six years old, he became a Crown ward. The offender has also shown a pattern of threatening, assaultive, and destructive behaviour. A psychologist reported that the offender has been previously diagnosed with attention deficit disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, conduct disorder, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, and obsessive tendencies. However, the accused has shown some signs of rehabilitation, as he did not want to lose his current residence and programming. Given that the current intensive support and supervision program has hope of success, the offender was sentenced to a six-month deferred custody and supervision order, followed by a two-year probation.

R. v. J.T., 2018 ONCJ 462

In the Ontario Court of Justice case of R. v. J.T., the accused was convicted of aggravated assault, obstruction, personation, possession of weapon dangerous to public peace, and two counts of failing to comply with an order. The accused had been sentenced to three months custody and supervision order, followed by a two year probation. The accused young person now submits an application for the early termination of his probation.

The accused had complied with open custody terms and conditions as well as counselling. Now, he has become gainfully employed in a business he started with his uncle. His family has reported positive changes, and the probation officer reported that the accused has been polite and engaged throughout the entire process. The accused had reached the crucial age of 20, where his supervision would be transferred to the adult system. With his compliance to date, his youth probation officer supported the application for an early termination of his probation. The sentence was terminated.

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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.