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Youth court statistics

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The Daily

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Fewer young people aged 12 to 17 have been appearing before a judge since the enactment of the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) in April 2003, and fewer are being sent to custody.

There were 56,463 youth court cases completed during the 2006/2007 fiscal year. Although virtually unchanged from the previous year, this amount was 26% lower than in 2002/2003, the year prior to the enactment of the new legislation.

The youth court caseload has declined in every province and territory since the introduction of the YCJA. There were five jurisdictions in which the caseload in 2006/2007 was at least 30% lower than in 2002/2003: the Northwest Territories (-52%), Newfoundland and Labrador (-47%), Yukon (-45%), British Columbia (-37%) and Ontario (-30%).

Over the same period, declines of between 21% and 24% occurred in Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Alberta and Nunavut. In the remaining provinces (Nova Scotia, Quebec, Manitoba and Saskatchewan), the youth court caseloads declined by less than 20%.

Since reaching a high of 70% in 1998/1999, the proportion of cases in which the young people either pleaded guilty, or were found guilty, has been gradually declining. In 2006/2007, the proportion was about 60%, the lowest since 1991/1992 when youth court data became available for all provinces and territories.

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

In line with that objective, fewer youth are being sentenced to custody. In 2006/2007, about 17% or 5,640 of all guilty cases resulted in a custodial sentence. This compares with 13,246 or 27% of all guilty cases in 2002/2003.

This decline was apparent in all provinces and territories. The largest impact occurred in Newfoundland and Labrador, Manitoba and the Northwest Territories, where the number of cases in which youth sentenced to custody in 2006/2007 was only about one-quarter of the number in 2002/2003. In all other jurisdictions, the number was less than half that in the last year of the YOA.

Historically, judges have sentenced convicted youth to probation more than any other type of sentence. This was still true in 2006/2007, as 59% of guilty youth cases resulted in probation. However, this proportion was 11 percentage points lower than 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 YOA, youth custody sentences were often followed by a probation order.

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

Since their introduction, the new sentences have not been commonly used. In 2006/2007, deferred custody and supervision orders were handed down the most frequently in only about 3% of guilty youth court cases, or 1,080.

Note: Statistics in this release should not be compared with those in releases prior to October 2007. Data have been revised to account for a new case definition, which more closely reflects court processing. These statistics are based on data collected through the Integrated Criminal Court Survey and the Youth Court Survey.

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

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 3309.

The Juristat: "Youth court statistics, 2006/2007," Vol. 28, no. 4, (85-002-XIE, free), is now available from our website. From the Publications module, under Free Internet publications, choose Crime and justice, then Juristat. A paper version (85-002-XPE, $11/$100) is also available.

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

Tables. Table(s).