Criminal Justice in Canada

The Youth Criminal Justice Act contains a preamble and a declaration of principles to meet the objectives of the youth justice system. The preamble contains some statements from Parliament about the values on which the legislation is based. “These statements include the following:  Society has a responsibility to address the needs of young persons.  Communities and families must work together to prevent youth crime. They should take effective steps to address the real causes behind such crimes. It is also important to properly respond to the needs of young persons and provide them guidance and support.

Complete information about youth crime and the measures taken to resolve this problem should be publicly available.  Young people have rights to freedom. Those rights are set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.    The interests of victims should be given due consideration in the youth justice system” (Goff, 2004). Comparison between the YOA and the YCJA There are several differences between the Young Offenders Act and the Youth Criminal Justice Act. “Unlike the YOA, the YCJA emphasizes on the guidance that should be given to key principles.

The new legislation clearly states that the government's response to an offence must reflect the needs and circumstances of a young person” (Barnhorst & Sherrie, 2004). The social problems of the youth should not result in harsher penalties. The proportion of the punishments should be fair enough depending on the seriousness of the offence. Youth Criminal Justice Act provides a clear statement of goal and principles that is fundamental of the youth justice system. It includes some principles for the use of extra-judicial measures. However, the Young Offenders Act is not guided by the specific principles.

The YOA and the YCJA also differs on the court proceedings. The Young Offenders Act allowed the use of measures other than court proceeding as alternative measures, but did not specify that they should be used for minor offences. However, the Youth Criminal Justice System has clearly specified that measures other than court proceedings should be used only for non-violent offence. Sentencing principles in both the legislations are completely different. The Young Offenders Act did not provide an option for community supervision following custody. There was no restriction on the use of custody.

However, the Youth Criminal Justice Act ensures that custody is reserved for violent or repeat offences. It requires all custody sentences be followed by community supervision and rehabilitation measures. Another difference between both the acts lies in the adult sentencing. “Age limit for the presumption of adult sentence was 16 in the YOA” (Bala, 1997). However, it was lowered to 14 in the YCJA. In the YOA, offences like murder, attempted murder and serious sexual offences were considered for adult sentences. The YCJA extended it with the inclusion of patterns of serious, violent or repeat offences.

“In the YOA, the Crown had no authority to renounce the application of the presumption of an adult sentence” (Bala, 1997). However, under the YCJA, the Crown can renounce the application of the presumption of adult sentence. In this case, the judge has to impose a youth sentence, if the young person is found guilty. Conclusion It is always believed that measures outside the court process can provide effective solutions to less serious youth crime. The main objective of the Youth Criminal Justice Act is to increase the use of timely non-court responses to less serious youth offences.

The legislation alone is not enough to achieve the objectives of the youth justice system. Only the combination of the new legislation and other non-legislative elements can achieve the objectives and create an effective youth justice system.


Bala, Nicholas. (1997). Young offenders law. Concord (Ontario), Irwin Publishing. Yogis, John A. Canadian Law Dictionary. (2003). Barron's Educational Series (BAR), 346 p. Barnhorst, Richard & Barnhorst, Sherrie. (2004). Criminal Law and the Canadian Criminal Code. McGraw-Hill Ryerson Limited (MHR), 2004. Goff, Colin. (2004) . Criminal Justice in Canada. Thomson Nelson