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Youth Criminal Lawyers

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Frequently Asked Questions

Are Youth Sentences the Same as Adult Sentences in London?

No, youth sentences are not the same as adult sentences. The youth justice system is a completely separate system from the adult criminal justice system, and youths are held to different standards than adults. Young people are charged with offences under the Criminal Code, but procedures must strictly adhere to the Youth Criminal Justice Act. The procedure for sentencing must be carried out in accordance with the YCJA, and is different from adult sentencing. Sentencing is addressed in Part IV of the YCJA.

The most severe penalty a Court may enter during sentencing is jail. However, in most cases, jail is not the best option for young offenders. Prison is the last possible option for youth convicted of a crime. The sentencing principles in the YCJA are somewhat different from section 718 of the Criminal Code that enumerates the sentencing principles for adult offenders. They include denunciation, deterrence, separation, rehabilitation, reparations, and promoting a sense of responsibility. Section 38 of the Youth Criminal Justice Act enumerates that the primary sentencing principles for youth offenders. They include rehabilitation and reintegration, fair and proportionate accountability, procedural protection of young persons, timely intervention, and prompt response. These principles consider the young person’s diminished moral blameworthiness and/or culpability.

Can a Young Person Be Sentenced as an Adult?

The Crown may apply to have the accused young person sentenced as an adult under s. 64(1) of the YCJA. Section 64(1) of the Youth Criminal Justice Act says a young person is liable to be charged with an adult sentence if they’ve been found guilty of an offence (other than a presumptive offence), where an adult is liable to imprisonment of more than two years. The offence must have been committed after the young person has reached the age of 14 years.

If the young person was sentenced to an adult sentence, section 73 of the YCJA requires the Court to treat the convicted as an adult. If an adult sentence is entered, Sentencing and Dangerous Offender provisions (Parts XXIII and XXIV of the Criminal Code) apply to the young person.

An adult sentence is required to be applied where a youth sentence would not be sufficient to hold the young person accountable. The Crown must establish that the offence is severe enough and the young person is old enough, that an adult sentence would be necessary for the rehabilitation of the young person. After an adult sentence has been ordered, the Court must then decide whether to place the young person into a youth or adult facility. Section 76 of the YCJA offers three options: a youth custody facility, a provincial correctional facility for adults, or a penitentiary (if the sentence is two years or more). Section 76(2) indicates that until the offender reaches the age of 18, they must be held in a youth custody facility.

Stages of the Criminal Justice System

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In 2022, the London Police Services reported that they had 268 youths charged with a criminal offence. In comparison to 5,832 charges for adults. In 2021, there were 186 young persons charged by the London Police Service. There is a 44% increase in young persons charged in 2022 in comparison to 2021. Looking at a five-year period, there are on average 314 young persons charged with a criminal offence per year.

What is Police Caution?

The Youth Criminal Justice Act emphasizes rehabilitation and promotes using extrajudicial measures. Extrajudicial measures are measures for dealing with youth offenders that occur outside of the formal court processes. The purpose of these measures are to respect the presumption of diminished moral blameworthiness or culpability of the young people.

When the police stop a young person in relation to a criminal incident, it is up to their discretion to lay charges. If the police do not lay charges, they may issue warnings. The warning may be informal, or a formal warning called a “police caution.” A police caution, authorized under section 7 of the YCJA, often involves a letter to the young person and their parents, and may require a meeting at the station. Alternatively, the police can refer the young person to community programs or agencies that helps and counsels the young person.

What’s a Crime in Canada?

Rights of Young Offenders in London

Everyone living in Canada has the same rights enumerated under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. These rights apply to adults as well as young offenders and include the right to remain silent, the right not to be arbitrarily detained, the right to be free against unreasonable search and seizure, the right to be informed without delay of the charge, the right not to be denied bail, the right to counsel, the right to be informed of the reason for arrest and the right to be tried within a reasonable time.

Section 26(1) of the Youth Criminal Justice Act also ensures that when a young person is arrested, their parents will be notified. This is called a notice to parent. The officer in charge must, as soon as possible, give the parent a notice of the arrest. The notice of arrest states the place of detention and the reason for the arrest.

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Recent Cases

R. v. Bouctsis, 2023 ONSC 2405

In the Ontario Superior Court of Justice act of R. v. Bouctsis, the accused young person was convicted of second-degree murder. The accused was 17 years old at the time of the offence. The victim had agreed to meet an individual to sell him one pound of marijuana. The accused accompanied the individual to buy the marijuana from the victim. When they arrived, the accused attempted to rob the victim with a loaded handgun, and in the altercation that followed, the victim was shot in the head and killed.

During sentencing, the Court considered the consequences of a sentence for the accused. If a youth sentence were to be applied, the accused would be sentenced to seven years. If sentenced as an adult, the mandatory minimum was life imprisonment. To determine the fit and appropriate sentence, the Court considered section 72(1) of the Youth Criminal Justice Act. Section 72(1) enumerates a two-pronged test for determining whether or not an adult sentence applies.

An adult sentence applies only if the Court was satisfied that the presumption of diminished moral blameworthiness or culpability of the young person was rebutted; and that the youth sentence would not be of sufficient length for the young person to be held accountable. Despite supports provided to the accused, the accused was still drawn to the criminal drug subculture. The accused was sentenced as an adult with life imprisonment without eligibility of parole for seven years, after which he would be subject to lifetime supervision.

R. v. G.G., 2022 ONSC 6023

In the Ontario Superior Court of Justice case of R. v. G.G., the accused was charged with 52 charges, ranging from robbery to sexual assault, including around 20 allegations of breaching court orders. The Court was asked to review the accused’s detention, and the question of jurisdiction was raised. The issue was whether the Superior Court of Justice have jurisdiction to review the detention of a young person under s. 525 of the Criminal Code.

Section 525 of the Criminal Code details the procedures for pre-trial detention bail reviews. The Youth Criminal Justice Act does provide in section 28 that the provisions in section 525 do apply to young persons, except when they are inconsistent with YCJA. Section 14 of the YCJA gives exclusive jurisdiction to “Youth Justice Courts” when a young person is involved with an offence.

In Ontario, the designated Youth Justice Court is the Ontario Court of Justice. The young person can only be tried in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice if they elect to be tried by a Superior Court judge sitting with or without a jury. This election can only happen if (1) the Crown seeks an adult sentence (2) the young person is charged with murder, or (3) the status of the accused is uncertain. None of these circumstances applied to the case. The jurisdiction over detention was transferred over to the Ontario Court of Justice for review.

R. v. J.R.-S., 2022 ONSC 4619

Ontario Superior Court of Justice case of R. v. J.R.-S, the accused pleaded guilty to first degree murder. He was 14 years old at the time of the offence. The offence happened in a group home, when the offender, without warning or provocation, viciously stabbed another youth to death. The adult in the group foster home had locked up knives and scissors in the master bedroom. While the adult was out on an errand, the accused broke into the bedroom and stole two large kitchen knives. The accused was arrested and charged with mischief for the door, but the adult did not realize the knives were gone. When the accused returned to the foster home, he was agitated and was determined to find out who had reported him to the police. In an altercation, the accused stabbed the deceased multiple times.

Various victim impact statements were filed. The offender identified as Indigenous but waived the preparation of a Gladue report. He had a difficult upbringing, where there was verbal and physical abuse in the home. The offender has a history of substance use that included fentanyl, heroin, and alcohol, and has been diagnosed with ADHD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and a learning disability. The offender was sentenced to the maximum youth sentence for first-degree murder, which is ten years, comprised of six years in custody and four years of conditional supervision. A DNA order and a weapons prohibition order for life was entered.

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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.