Youth Criminal Justice Act
The Leniency Argument
The Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA), introduced on April 1, 20031 for youth aged 12 – 17, is legislation designed to balance the legalistic framework of the Young Offenders Act (YOA) and the social-needs approach underlying the Juvenile Delinquents Act (JDA). The Declaration of Principle, which outlines the philosophy of the YCJA, states that “the purpose of the youth criminal justice system is to prevent crime by addressing the circumstances underlying a young person’s offending behaviour, rehabilitate young persons who commit offences and reintegrate them back into society, and ensure that a young person is subject to meaningful consequences for his or her offences, in order to promote the long-term protection of the public”2. The YCJA legislation was developed as a direct response to harsh criticism of the Young Offenders Act (YOA) which it replaced. The YOA had significant issues in terms of lacking a clear and consistent youth justice philosophy, the overuse of incarceration, using the court system for minor offences, unfairness in sentencing, the ineffective reintegration of the offender into society, unfairness in transfers to adult court, no clear distinction between serious violent offences and less serious offences and no sufficient recognition to the interests of the victims.1 While some believe that the YCJA has addressed all of these issues, there are others who believe that our youth justice system has a long way to go to fully take into account the needs of both the victims and offenders. I plan to demonstrate, through this document, that the YCJA is too lenient in dealing with youth crime, particularly where it involves weapons and violence.
The YCJA made several changes to the previous justice system for youth, including a statement of principle removing any uncertainty about how the Act should be interpreted and increasing the number of extrajudicial measures...