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Youth criminal lawyer

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

Youth crime is an issue that cannot be solved through the enforcement of laws alone. It requires the cooperation and strength of whole communities, as well as a commitment to provide access to much-needed services designed to address the underlying reasons for criminal behaviour. The rehabilitation of youth offenders is always a main goal of the Canadian criminal justice system.

The Waterloo Regional Police Service, which serves Kitchener, understands this goal. Their 2022 Annual Report highlights their efforts at community collaboration. Their Community Engagement and Well-being Branch, established in 2021, has developed strategies meant to address issues around mental health, youth crime, homelessness, and drug use. The main purpose of these strategies is to work with community partners to educate, refer, and support those in need. Thereby redirecting or diverting future criminal behaviour.

Do the Police in Kitchener Have to Notify a Parent if Their Child is Arrested?

When the police arrest a youth, they are required by law to notify that youth’s parent or guardian. This process is required under s. 26 of the Youth Criminal Justice Act. The section states that any time a youth is arrested or detained in custody for a court appearance, the police must contact a guardian as soon as possible. The notice they provide can be given orally or in writing and is specifically referred to as a Notice to Parents. The notice will include such information as the place where the youth is being detained and the reason they were arrested. When necessary, a notice will also include the time, date, and location of the accused’s first court appearance.

Can Youth be Held in Pre-Trial Detention?

It is possible for youths to be held in pre-trial detention. This is not an uncommon procedure. After a youth is arrested, they may be detained by the police. The police have the discretion to release or detain anyone who is arrested. The police will usually detain a youth who is either charged with a serious offence, or who has a previous criminal record.

At first, a youth may only be held until they have had a bail hearing. A bail hearing is where a judge will determine if the accused youth can be released back into the community under a set of conditions deemed appropriate for the accused and the offence they are alleged to have committed. The time between arrest and release on bail may be longer if the youth is accused of a serious offence, as it may take time for all parties to develop a release plan that will satisfy a judge. If a youth is denied bail, or is released and violates their bail conditions, they may be subject to longer term pre-trial detention until their case goes to trial or is otherwise resolved.

Can a Youth be Denied Bail in Kitchener?

It is possible for an accused youth to be denied bail. This is only seen in cases where a youth has been accused of a very serious, typically violent offence, or where they have a lengthy criminal record or history of breaching court orders. The denial of bail is a serious matter as it poses a challenge to the right to be presumed innocent. Canadians also enjoy a constitutional right to not be denied bail without just cause.

The reasons to deny bail are set out in what is known as the Antic principles. There are three grounds for which bail may be denied that apply to both youth and adult accused. The first ground is if the judge believes an accused will not appear at future court dates if released. The second ground applies where there is reason to believe an accused may reoffend while released. Finally, the third ground can be relied on where releasing the accused would undermine public confidence in the justice system. This is typically seen when accused persons are charged with serious or violent offences where the accused poses a serious threat to society.

Stages of the Criminal Justice System

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Does a Parent or Guardian Have to Bail Their Child Out of Jail?

A parent or guardian may need to bail their child out. Our justice system operates under the presumption that an accused person should be released following arrest with the fewest conditions possible. This is because of an accused person’s constitutional right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. Bail conditions are restrictions on that freedom and should be avoided wherever possible. The presumption is even stronger for children because of the core principles of the YCJA. Children are presumed to be less morally responsible for their actions because of their age, and as such should only be burdened with the least restrictive punishments and sanctions. In practice, this means many times the police will release a youth following their arrest on an undertaking, otherwise known as a promise to appear in court.

In cases where youths are held for a bail hearing, their parent or guardian may have to bail them out. In these circumstances a parent would become their child’s surety. A surety is essentially a community jailer that ensures an accused person complies with their bail conditions. A surety release is among the strictest forms of release for adults. However, they are more common for children because of their increased dependence on their parents, and the likelihood that a third party will need to ensure the youth’s compliance due to their lack of maturity.

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How are Youths Bailed Out of Jail? 

To bail out a child and become a surety, a parent must attend a bail hearing that will be held at the local courthouse, such as one in Kitchener. When their child’s matter is called, a parent will have to answer several questions on the record. These questions will determine the surety’s relationship to the accused, as well as if the surety is qualified and prepared to accept the duties that come with the position.

To be a surety, a parent must not have a criminal record of their own. If a judge is satisfied that the surety will uphold their duty, they will release the accused into their custody under some conditions. It is the surety’s duty to ensure the accused complies with the conditions. The surety has a legal duty to report to the police if the accused violates their conditions. When the accused is released, the surety will need to pledge an amount of money to the court as a guarantee of the accused’s compliance. This pledge is not a deposit. The surety only needs to pay the money if the accused violates their conditions.

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Recent Cases

R. v. T.B., 2022 ONCJ 606

This Ontario Court of Justice case demonstrates how the principles of the YCJA are applied during sentencing. Here, the offender pled guilty to possessing a firearm without a license and failing to comply with an undertaking. The issue raised during this process was whether a prison sentence could be given to the offender. The YCJA allows for certain non-violent offences to lead to prison sentences if the circumstances of said offence are extraordinary enough.

The judge determined that this case was not one where circumstances dictated a prison sentence. The judge understood that the mere possession of a firearm posed a risk of violence. The offence also ran against widely held community values. However, there were factors that showed prison would not have been the most effective sentencing outcome. The youth was only in possession of the weapon because it was given to him by an adult after they had been cornered by the police. The youth was meant to take the fall and posed no risk to others. This meant that prison was not an appropriate sentence. Instead, the offender was given an 18-month probation order, a two-year weapons prohibition, and a DNA order. The judge also issued a forfeiture order for the seized firearm.

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

This Ontario Court of Justice matter reviews another aspect of the pre-trial release system. The accused was charged with sexual assault with a weapon and assault with a weapon. He was released on undertaking that included a condition that originally prevented him from contacting eight individuals connected with the case. Six of these individuals were classmates who would be attending the same high school as the accused. The remaining two were the alleged victims who were a year younger than the accused. Both the Crown and defence agreed that the condition prohibiting contact with the six witnesses was unnecessary. The condition was not required for the safety of the witnesses and the condition could overly infringe on the accused’s education and social development.

This case demonstrates how the right to the presumption of innocence is protected in the pre-trial process. Undertaking conditions such as these are meant to protect witnesses and victims. However, they cannot harshly restrict the life of the accused, or put them in a position where compliance is difficult or impossible. This is true even when considering the enhanced privacy protections that apply in cases government by the YCJA. If the undertaking conditions had remained in force as originally set out, its potential impact would have contradicted the main goal of the YCJA, which is the rehabilitation and social development of youth offenders.

R. v. M.M., 2021 ONSC 8095

This Ontario Superior Court of Justice case shows how the circumstances of each offender are considered during sentencing in youth cases. Here, the offender pled guilty to a charge of second-degree murder. The victim was the offender’s mother. This was an example of a serious violent offence, which raised the possibility of a lengthy prison sentence. Given the circumstances, the offender was sentenced to the maximum penalty of seven years in intensive rehabilitative custody and supervision. This decision was reached after considering a pre-sentence report on the offender. This is a required step in all cases that gives a sentencing judge more context before they decide on the appropriate sentence.

The report in this instance highlighted the offender’s mental state and capacity, along with the supports available to him. These pre-sentence reports not only describe the situation at present, but they also aim to project what kind of needs an offender may have in the future while they serve their sentence. The author of the report in this case noted that the offender dealt with intellectual and social challenges that could lead to a potential mental health disorder. The report also pointed out that the offender had a supportive extended family that had shown willingness to help in his rehabilitation.

This context helped the judge conclude that this case should take advantage of the mechanism under the YCJA that allows for annual reviews of a custodial sentence. These reviews ensure that the sentence would continue to be in the best interest of both the offender and society for its entire length. This flexibility is important and helps to demonstrate the YCJA’s commitment to rehabilitation in practice.

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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.