The Youth Criminal Justice System
In Ontario, when young persons between the ages of 12 and 17 get in trouble with the law, the legal system treats them differently from adults. When a youth breaks the law, the Youth Criminal Justice Act (“YCJA”) guides the police and courts as to what to do. Depending on the seriousness of the offense and the circumstances in which the offense was committed, the youth offender may get a warning or a formal caution from the police or be referred to a community program, or be charged and sent to court. These young persons have certain rights under the law, including privacy rights and protection from media scrutiny.
Rights of a young person
A young person means a person who is (or in the absence of evidence to the contrary) appears to be twelve years old or older, but less than eighteen years old.
Special considerations apply in court proceedings against young persons and, in particular, they have rights and freedoms such as the right:
- To be heard in the course of and to participate in the court processes that lead to decisions that affect them;
- To be treated with courtesy, compassion, and respect for their dignity and privacy;
- To be provided with information about the court proceedings, and
- To inform their parents of measures or proceedings involving them and have them encouraged to support in correcting the young person’s offending behavior.
After turning 18 years old
Proceedings started under the Youth Criminal Justice Act against a young person can be continued in youth court after the person turns eighteen years old. If the alleged offense was committed while the accused was a young person, the YCJA applies even if the person is now older than 18.
Right to Counsel
A young person has the right to hire a lawyer without delay, and to exercise that right personally, at any stage of a case against them.
If a young person is arrested or detained, the arresting officer must immediately tell the young person about their right to hire a lawyer and be given an opportunity to talk to or meet with a lawyer.
Notice to Parents–in cases of arrest and detention
If a young person is arrested and detained in custody, the officer-in-charge must tell the parent or guardian of the young person as soon as possible about the arrest, stating the place where they’re being detained and the
reason for the arrest.
Notice to parents–when not necessary
If the offense was committed by the person while a young person but the hearing before the youth justice court comes up after that person turned twenty years old, the parent or guardian does not need to be informed.
Social media has a major impact on youth and their daily activities of networking.
Social networking applications, websites, chat rooms, and online forums are part of everyday life. The more we use these online applications, the more we might be risking our safety and privacy. If we are not careful about how we use it, the internet can be a dangerous place. Sexual harassment and bullying are two major dangers that youth can face online.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s (www.rcmp.gc.ca) Centre for Youth Crime Prevention provides definitions and guidelines in terms of cyberbullying. It is important to be aware of these factors and the laws about online activities. Any misuse of information online can have major consequences, including criminal liability.
Cyberbullying involves the use of
communication technologies like social
networking apps, websites, email, text
messaging, and instant messaging to
repeatedly intimidate or harass others.