Greater sentencing options

The law also allowed greater sentencing options and placed restrictions on the punishment of the offenders. With the exception of juveniles transferred to adult courts, young offenders who are found guilty and are convicted could not be put in custody in any place "in which adults are or may be imprisoned". In the case of the four boys in the movie Sleepers, this law may not be of much assistance and protection for the young offenders as the qualification as to the kind of offense that can transferred to the adult courts.

In this case, the four boys having charged with aggravated assault, they can and probably will transfer the case to an adult court. Although the law is a great start at lending protection to individuals especially the youth, it lacks the “teeth” to make it as effective as needed. It still lacked stringent procedures on salient areas.

A report issued by the Canadian Department of Justice, “Juvenile Delinquency in Canada”, in 1965, pointed out the law’s failure in terms of stating the quality of the reform schools, that is, the types and sizes of institution, the number and qualifications of personnel, and the policies to be administered in the operation of these schools. There was clearly a deficiency in stringent provisions for limitations on the exercise of court powers.

There was also a need for a more flexible provision on sentencing options as well as a provision on the accused being informed of his rights. Moreover, a formal procedure surrounding the exercise of informing the accused of his rights and also an appeals process should be instituted. The enactment of The Young Offenders Act in 1984, therefore, was Parliament’s solution to the issues building up with implementing the 1908 act.

One noticeable area of protection that the 1984 act addressed is with respect to fortifying the protection offered by the law with regard to the rights of the young offenders. More precisely, it intended to achieve a balance between the rights and responsibilities of the young offenders and the rights of the community to be protected. In addition, the 1984 act provided the authority and principles that governed how custody and community-based programs and services were offered.

The 1984 act applied to “a person who is or, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, appears to be twelve years of age or more, but under eighteen years of age”. In the Act’s Declaration of Principles, it recognized the need to develop “multi-disciplinary approaches to identifying and effectively responding to children and young person at risk of committing offending behavior in the future”. It further states that although young offenders require “supervision, discipline and control”, they also require guidance and assistance.

The 1984 act also ended the paternalistic handling of delinquents by providing young offenders similar basic rights and freedoms as those enjoyed by adults, such as the right to legal counsel and the right to appeal a conviction. It also set out a new range of penalties that included the options of financial restitution or compensatory work for the victim. The periods of custody set forth in the law can be a long as ten years, for a case of first degree murder, which is comprised of “a committal to custody not exceeding six years” and “a placement under conditional supervision to be served in the community”.

Apart from first degree murder and second degree murder cases, the period of custody in general should not exceed two years from the date of committal or if the offense is punishable by imprisonment for life by the Criminal Code or any other Act of Parliament, the period of custody shall not exceed three years from the date of committal. Going back to the case of the four young boys of Hell’s Kitchen, the application of the 1984 act would make them experience a heavier penalty as the period of committal can be over a year but not exceeding two years.