The Youth Criminal Justice Act or YCJA is the successor to the old Young Offenders Act. It generally protects two classes of people. Children who are less than twelve years of age have their names protected from publicity and cannot be tried for an offence under the Criminal Code of Canada. A “young person” is someone who is older than twelve years of age but not yet eighteen, or was that age at the time of an alleged offence.
Such “young persons” have the law applied to them somewhat differently than adult offenders. While the trial process is identical, and all accused persons are entitled to a fair and public hearing, counsel, to confront each witness against them, etc., “young persons” are sentenced in a much more lenient way than adults.
The Act requires a judge who is sentencing a “young person” to consider the degree of responsibility of the young person, rehabilitation and reintegration of the offender, and prevention of crime by referring the offender to appropriate agencies.
In this way, the law recognizes diminished blameworthiness for offenders convicted while not yet eighteen years of age. The Act speaks of “timely intervention” to instruct the offender about action and consequences as well as encouraging the accused to make reparations to their victims.
Together with offenders subject to the Gladue rules, the YCJA creates a gentler system for the sentencing of certain offenders. For accused persons who are both “young persons” and also first nations, Inuit, or Metis, both systems apply together at the same time.
If you know a young person who has been charged with an offence, it is important for them to contact a lawyer.