Sixty year ago specified courts were established to address youth criminal matters.
The Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) governs the application of criminal and correctional law to those 12 years old or older, but younger than 18 at the time of committing the offence
Youth aged 12 to 17 may be sentenced as adults under certain circumstances.
The Criminal Code, section 13, states "No person shall be convicted of an offence in respect of an act or omission on his or her part while that person was under the age of twelve years."
The decision to have a separate jurisdiction for youth matter was an acknowledgment that youth facing criminal charges have separate needs, are more vulnerable than adults and should be afforded leniency whenever possible.
The basic principles and intentions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act in dealing with young offenders and youth crime, is the mandated attempt to address underlying behaviour, such as pre-existing conditions or circumstances that would lead to an offending behaviour; and to, above all, seek to reintegrate young persons who commit offences into society through means of rehabilitation
In Toronto, the Ontario Court of Justice at 311 Jarvis Street was first opened in 1957 to address youth criminal matters.
The matters addressed at 311 Jarvis Street include both family court matters and criminal youth court matters.
Further, there are significant youth support services offered to youth who find themselves before the court either in criminal matters or family matters
311 Jarvis provides a child-centred approach to youth justice, attempting to address the causes of youth criminality while acknowledging youth's inherent vulnerability and potential for rehabilitation.
The YCJA acknowledges that youth matters require leniency and a focus on rehabilitation.
The Attorney General of Ontario announced the intention to merge both youth and adult courts in one adult, criminal mega courthouse, eliminating the courthouse at 311 Jarvis.
This plan has raised substantial concerns and criticism that this would be a regressive, ill-conceived plan, dismantling the progressive approach taken at 311 Jarvis Court.
There are concerns that combining youth and adults criminal matters at the mega courthouse, thereby moving all youth matters out of the 311 Jarvis specialized youth court and into the new mega-court will have negative consequences on the youth before the court.
Children as young as 12 who are facing criminal offence charges will be made to appear at the same courthouse alongside adults who are facing criminal offence charges.
This is disconcerting to many, as there is a fear this may cause have negative effects on the young people, thereby obstructing the principles and intentions of the YCJA.
Know your rights! If you are facing criminal offence charges call Kostman and Pyzer, Barristers today for your free consultation!