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The Daily

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Judges are seeing fewer young people aged 12 to 17 in their courtrooms, and fewer are being sent to custody, since the enactment of the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) in April 2003.

There were 56,271 youth court cases completed during the 2005/2006 fiscal year, down 2% from the previous year. Since 2002/2003, the year prior to the enactment of the new legislation, youth court caseload has dropped 26%.

This is consistent with police-reported data showing that in 2005, the rate of youth charged with criminal offences was 26% lower than in 2002.

The YCJA aims to keep the less serious offences out of youth courts by dealing with youth in less formal manners. In 2005, the rate of youth who were not formally charged by the police was 25% higher than in 2002. This includes youth who may have received a warning or caution, a referral to a community program, or no further action by the police in lieu of charges.

Half of the reduction in the youth court caseload was the result of fewer youth appearing in court for property crimes such as theft, breaking and entering, fraud and possession of stolen property.

However, property crime cases still accounted for 38% of youth court caseload, more than any other type of crime, such as violent crime (27%), offences against the administration of justice (9%) and drug-related crimes (6%).

Since it reached a high of 70% in 1998/1999, the proportion of cases where the accused either pleaded guilty or was found guilty has been gradually declining. Of those youth who went to court in 2005/2006, 62% of cases resulted in guilt.

One of the concerns with the Young Offenders Act (YOA), which preceded the YCJA, was the overuse of custody. A key objective of the YCJA was to decrease the use of custody.

Consistent with the objectives of the YCJA, not only are fewer youth appearing in court, fewer are sentenced to custody. In 2005/2006, about 18% or 6,355 of all guilty cases resulted in the youth being sentenced to custody. This compares to 27% or 13,246 of all guilty cases in 2002/2003.

Court cases where the youth was guilty of being unlawfully at large were most likely to receive a sentence to custody and supervision. Of these young people, 70% received such a sentence.

Historically, judges have sentenced youth to probation more than any other type of sentence. Although this was still true in 2005/2006, the proportion of guilty youth receiving a sentence to probation dropped to 60% from 70% in 2002/2003.

This drop may be due in part to the fact that under the YCJA, youth are subject to a period of mandatory community supervision following their release from custody. Under the former YOA, youth custody sentences were often followed by a probation order.

The YCJA introduced a number of new sentencing options for judges, including intensive support and supervision orders, deferred custody and supervision orders, and orders to attend a non-residential program.

Of the new sentences, deferred custody and supervision orders were handed down the most frequently. In 2005/2006, 1,197 youth cases received such an order, accounting for 3% of guilty cases.

Note: Statistics in this release should not be compared with those in previous releases.

These statistics are based on data collected through the Integrated Criminal Court Survey and the Youth Court Survey.

The concept of a case has changed from previous releases to more closely reflect court processing. The new definition combines all charges against the same person having overlapping court dates into a single case. The previous definition combined all charges against the same person disposed of in court on the same day into a case. This tended to undercount the number of charges in a case, overcount the number of cases and underestimate the length of time required to process a case through court because not all charges are necessarily disposed of on the same day.

To account for the new case definition, youth court data dating back to 1991/1992 have been revised.

With this release, data for 2004/2005 are also available for the first time.

Available on CANSIM: tables 252-0047 to 252-0050.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 3309.

For standard tables or more information on the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Information and Client Services (toll-free 1-800-387-2231; 613-951-9023), Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics.

Tables. Table(s).