In Touch - Young Offenders Act

March 19, 2010
Canadians lose confidence in the justice system when a sentence is insufficient to hold an offender accountable for his or her actions, or insufficient to protect society.  Many constituents have told me over the past year they have lost confidence in the justice system when it involves young offenders. 

Last week amendments to the Youth Criminal Justice Act (often referred to as the young offenders act) were introduced in the House of Commons to help ensure that violent and repeat young offenders are held accountable through sentences that are proportionate to the severity of their crimes, and that the protection of society is given due consideration in applying the Youth Criminal Justice Act. 

Currently, the objective of protecting society is not stated strongly enough in the Act.  By highlighting this objective within the principles of the Act we will give the courts a necessary tool to ensure the protection of society is taken into account in sentencing youth who commit violent and repeat offences.

The changes proposed will simplify pre-trial detention rules to help ensure that, when necessary, violent and repeat young offenders are kept off the streets while awaiting trial.  We will strengthen sentencing provisions and reduce barriers to custody where appropriate for violent and repeat young offenders and ensure adult sentences are considered for youth 14 and older who commit serious violent offences like murder, attempted murder, manslaughter and aggravated sexual assault.

Legislation will require the courts to consider lifting the publication ban on the names of young offenders convicted of “violent offences,” when youth sentences are given and ensure that offenders under the age of 18 who are sentenced to custody will be placed in youth facilities only, even if they receive an adult sentence.

The changes will require police to keep records when informal measures, extrajudicial measures, are used in order to make it easier to identify patterns of re-offending.

Typically, such measures could include warnings, cautions or referrals made to respond to an alleged offence by a young person.  By requiring that records be kept of these informal measures, police and the courts will be better informed of past incidents so that they can take appropriate action in respect of subsequent offences.

I feel that these changes to the Act will go a long way in restoring public confidence and effectiveness in our youth justice system.  To learn more about the YCJA, please visit our Web site at: http://www.canada.justice.gc.ca/eng/pi/yj-jj/

Until next time…

Earl Dreeshen, MP
Red Deer