Legal Developments: Youth Criminal Justice Act
When the Youth Criminal Justice Act (the YCJA) came into force in 2003, it was praised for striking an appropriate balance between tougher consequences to deal with serious violent offenders and a more restorative and rehabilitative approach through extra-judicial measures for non-violent offenders. Prior to the enactment of the YCJA, Canada’s rate of youth incarceration was more than twice that of the United States, with the majority of sentences being for non-violent offences. Since the enactment of the YCJA, youth incarceration rates have fallen and the youth crime rate has not increased.
Almost nine years after the YCJA was proclaimed in force, youth justice legislation changed once again under Bill C-4 which formed part of the Omnibus Bill C-10, Safe Streets and Communities Act. The YCJA amendments came into force on October 25, 2012. Ironically, the amendments contained in Bill C-10 may lead to higher and lengthier incarceration rates among youth.
The amendments to the YCJA under Bill C-10, Safe Streets and Communities Act include, but are not limited to, the following:
- The Addition of “Deterrence” and “Denunciation” as sentencing principles.
- Publication – Encouraging judges to consider allowing the publication of a young person’s identity when they are convicted of a violent offence.
- “Serious” Offence Designations – Under Bill C-10, a “serious” offence any indictable offence for which the maximum punishment is five years or more. “Serious” offences can now include simple assault, uttering threat, theft over $5000, public mischief and other offences.