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Youth Court Statistics, 2006/2007

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by Jennifer Thomas

Cases heard in youth court

Fewer youth appearing in court since the enactment of the YCJA

Youth courts in Canada processed 56,463 cases involving 179,873 charges in 2006/2007. Although unchanged from the overall caseload in 2005/2006, it is 26% lower than that in 2002/2003 – the year prior to the enactment of the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) (Table 1). The largest decline came in the first year of the new legislation when youth court judges disposed of 16% fewer cases than the year before.

Between 1991/19921 and 2002/2003, the number of youth court cases processed each year was already on the decline, primarily due to the steady decline in the number of crimes against property cases2 (such as theft, break and enter and mischief), while the number of cases for most other offence categories was generally increasing. While crimes against property cases continued to drop following the enactment of the YCJA (-32% from 2002/2003 to 2006/2007), all other categories of offences dropped significantly as well. For instance, in 2006/2007 there were 34% fewer other federal statute cases3 compared with 2002/2003, and 17% fewer Administration of justice cases (e.g., cases where the accused failed to comply with a recognizance order or failed to appear in court).

Chart 1
Substantial declines in youth court caseload following the enactment of the YCJA

Chart 1 Substantial declines in youth court caseload following the enactment of the YCJA

Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Youth Court Survey.

Although crimes against the person cases were 5% higher than the low of 14,469 cases in 1991/1992, the number of cases in this category in 2006/2007 was 18% lower than in 2002/2003. Following an upward trend during the 1990s, crimes against the person cases dropped 9% in the first year of the YCJA and almost 10% in the following year. The level has remained stable since (Chart 1).

In 2006/2007, the types of cases processed in youth courts most often involved crimes against property (38%) and crimes against the person (27%) (Table 2). Less frequent were cases involving offences against the Administration of Justice (9%), offences under the YCJA or the Young Offenders Act (YOA) (8%), other Criminal Code offences (8%), drug-related offences (7%), Criminal Code traffic offences (2%), and other federal statute offences (2%).

Ten offences accounted for three-quarters of the total youth court caseload

As in past years, a small number of offences accounted for a large proportion of the youth court caseload in 2006/2007. Together, the ten most frequent offences represented threequarters (75%) of total cases (Chart 2).

Four of the most frequent offences were in the crimes against property category: theft accounted for 14% of the total completed caseload, while break and enter accounted for 9%, and mischief and possession of stolen property for 7% and 6%, respectively.

While common assault cases accounted for 1 in 10 cases in youth court overall, they made up almost 4 in 10 crimes against the person cases in youth courts. Major assault (23%), robbery (15%) and uttering threats (14%) were the other most common types of crimes against the person cases. Homicide (which includes murder, manslaughter and infanticide) and attempted murder together amounted to a very small proportion of crimes against the person cases heard in youth courts (less than 0.5%). There were 40 cases of homicide and 23 cases of attempted murder disposed of in 2006/2007 in which a young person was the accused.

Drop in youth court caseload seen across the country

Since the introduction of the YCJA, the drop in youth court caseload at the national level has been seen across the country. Among the provinces and territories, there were five jurisdictions where the caseload in 2006/2007 was at least 30% lower than in 2002/2003 – Northwest Territories (-52%), Newfoundland and Labrador (-47%), Yukon (-45%), British Columbia (-37%) and Ontario (-30%). Over the same period, drops of between 21% to 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 dropped by less than 20% (Table 3).

Although the youth court caseload in every province and territory was much lower than it was under the last year of the YOA, several provinces and territories experienced an increase in caseload from 2005/2006. Prince Edward Island youth courts completed 17% more cases, while Yukon, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba experienced increases of 10%, 8%, 6% and 3%, respectively.

Chart 2
Ten offences accounted for three-quarters of the youth court caseload in 2006/2007

Chart 2 Ten offences accounted for three-quarters of the youth court caseload in 2006/2007

Note: YCJA/YOA offences are primarily the failure to comply with a disposition.
Source: Youth Court Survey, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Statistics Canada.

Differences across the country in the reporting of criminal incidents to police, in procedures and eligibility requirements for police diversion and extrajudicial measures programs, and differences in provincial policy directing Crown discretion will influence the volume and characteristics of cases heard in youth courts. Pre-charge screening by the Crown is mandatory in New Brunswick, Quebec and British Columbia. Processes such as these serve to keep less serious cases out of the court system and reduce court workload. These factors should be considered when making inter-jurisdictional comparisons.

Text box 1
Youth and youth crime in context

Population – 20064

  • Total Canadian population was 32.6 million with 2.6 million youth aged 12 to 17 years (8% of total).

Persons charged by police in 20065,6

  • 629,497 adults and youths were charged with federal offences.
  • 85,947 (14%) of these were youth.

Cases processed in youth court, 2006/20075

  • 56,463 cases were heard in youth courts in 2006/2007.
  • This is stable compared to the 2005/2006 caseload of 56,271, but is 26% lower than in 2002/2003 (the year prior to the enactment of the YCJA).

Convictions in youth court, 2006/2007

  • 34,065 cases (60%) resulted in a conviction in 2006/2007.

Characteristics of youth appearing in court

Over half of youth court cases involved 16- and 17-year-olds

Youth who appear in court tend to be older. In 2006/2007, 16-year olds accounted for 26% of cases and 17-year-olds, 30%.7 Accused persons aged 15 years appeared in 21% of all cases, while those aged 14, 13, and 12 years showed proportionally less involvement, accounting for 13%, 6% and 2% of cases, respectively (Table 4).

Males accounted for 73% of youth court cases and they predominated in all age groups. While the proportion of cases against males increased with age, half of the cases8 where the accused was female involved 15- and 16-year olds.

Case processing

Youth court cases becoming more complex

Multiple-charge cases9 are often complex and more serious. In 1991/1992, the first year for which youth court data are available, youth court cases with more than one charge represented 45% of the total caseload. However, the proportion of youth court cases with multiple charges gradually increased throughout the 1990s – on average by 1 percentage point per year, and continued into the next decade (Chart 3). In 2003/2004, the first year under the YCJA, the increase was more than 4 percentage points over the previous year, bringing the proportion of multiple-charge cases to 59%. This proportion has remained stable since.

Chart 3
The proportion of multiple charge cases is on the rise in youth courts

Chart 3 The proportion of multiple charge cases is on the rise in youth courts

Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Youth Court Survey.

Since reaching an all-time high of 164 days in 2003/2004, the average10 elapsed time to process a case in youth court (from the time of the youth’s first court appearance to the date of decision or sentencing) has been gradually declining. In 2006/2007, the average time from first to last court appearance for all cases was 156 days. Despite the decline, the average elapsed time is well above the 131 days in the year prior to the enactment of the YCJA (Chart 4).

Both single charge cases and multiple charge cases are taking longer to process, averaging 130 days and 173 days, respectively in 2006/2007. This compares to 105 days for single charge cases and 153 days for multiple charge cases in 2002/2003.

In 2006/2007, prostitution cases, on average, took the longest to complete (414 days), followed by cases of homicide (369 days). Sexual assault and other sexual offences (including voyeurism and sexual interference) had mean elapsed times of 284 and 266 days, respectively. The shortest mean elapsed time occurred for the offence of being unlawfully at large (69 days) (Table 5).

Saskatchewan had the longest mean elapsed time to process a case at 182 days, followed by Manitoba (177 days), Nova Scotia (171 days), Ontario (161 days) and Yukon (155 days). Prince Edward Island had the shortest mean elapsed time (51 days), followed by the Northwest Territories (61 days).

In 2006/2007, about six out of every ten cases (58%) were processed in four months or less, with 6% of cases taking longer than a year. Nine percent of cases were completed at the first court appearance.

Chart 4
Youth court cases are taking longer to process

Chart 4 Youth court cases are taking longer to process

Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Youth Court Survey.

Youth courts may be hearing lengthier cases as a result of less serious cases being diverted away from the court process as per the principles and objectives of extrajudicial measures under the YCJA, reserving court for the more serious cases. Less serious cases may not proceed to court, but rather be dealt with by the police in the form of extrajudicial measures such as police warnings or cautions and referrals to community programs. Further vetting of charges by the Crown may result in additional charges less serious in nature being handled in some manner other than proceeding to court (e.g., Crown caution or extrajudicial sanction).

Overview of youth court case outcomes

Six out of ten cases result in guilt

Cases with a finding or plea of guilt accounted for 60% of cases disposed in youth courts in 2006/2007 (Table 6).11 Twenty-two percent of cases were withdrawn or dismissed. Proceedings were stayed in 16% of cases, and 1% resulted in an acquittal.

The proportion of guilty verdicts varied among offence categories.12 Cases where the youth was accused of being unlawfully at large were found guilty most often (91%), followed by impaired driving (83%), offences under the YCJA (82%) and other Criminal Code traffic offence cases (80%). Attempted murder cases recorded the lowest proportion of guilty findings (26%), followed by prostitution (32%), criminal harassment (41%) and drug possession (43%) (Table 7).

The proportion of guilty cases reached a low in 2006/2007

Since reaching 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. The figure for 2006/2007 (60%), is the lowest proportion over the entire period that data have been collected for youth courts in Canada.13

The proportion of cases resulting in guilt has declined for many different types of cases. However, much of the decrease comes from the higher volume cases, especially crimes against property cases, where the proportion fell from 69% of cases in 1998/1999 to 55% in 2006/2007. For example, the proportion of guilty cases for both theft and break and enter declined by 14 percentage points over this period, and possession of stolen property by 11.

Although other major offence categories experienced notable declines in the proportion of guilty cases, there were variations from the trend when examining individual offences within the category. For example, in 2006/2007, the overall proportion of crimes against the person cases resulting in guilt was 5 percentage points lower than in 2002/2003. While the proportion of guilty cases for criminal harassment, robbery and common assault has generally declined, there have been considerable fluctuations in the proportions for homicide, attempted murder, sexual assault, other sexual offences and other crimes against the person.

The proportion of guilty cases varies considerably from one jurisdiction to another

The proportion of cases resulting in a guilty finding ranged from 46% in Yukon to 88% in New Brunswick (Table 6). This proportion in all other jurisdictions ranged between 55% and 76%. There are several possible factors that influence variations in the proportion of cases found guilty. First, some jurisdictions use diversion programs to a greater extent which may reduce the number and types of cases that proceed to court. Second, the use of stays and withdrawals varies across the country. Cases that are stayed or withdrawn are often indicative of charges set aside pending completion of extrajudicial/alternative measures or diversion programs, or the systematic use of these decisions for administrative purposes. For example, more than one-half (51%) of cases were stayed, withdrawn or dismissed in Yukon, compared with 11% in New Brunswick. Third, the use of pre-charge screening by the Crown, which occurs in New Brunswick, Quebec, and British Columbia, may also affect the percentage of convictions through increased vetting of charges.

Sentencing in youth court

The YCJA provides legislative direction to judges in sentencing youth who have been convicted of a criminal offence, by including statements of purpose, principles and factors with which judges must comply when imposing youth sentences. In sentencing a youth under the YCJA, a judge must consider a sentence that holds the youth accountable, ensures meaningful consequences for him or her and promotes his or her rehabilitation and reintegration into society. The sentence must be “proportionate to the seriousness of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the young person for that offence”.14 All reasonable alternatives to custody must be considered before a judge may impose a custodial sentence. For the most part, custody is to be saved for violent offenders and serious repeat offenders.

Many of the alternatives to custody that a judge may consider, in accordance with the purpose and principles of sentencing, existed under the YOA; however, several new sentences were introduced in the YCJA, including, intensive support and supervision, deferred custody and supervision, orders to attend a non-residential program and reprimands.15

Provinces and territories vary in terms of when they began providing YCJA sentencing data,16 therefore caution should be exercised when comparing these data.17 In years where the YCJA sentencing details were not available, they have been included in the “Other” category.

New YCJA sentences not common

In 2006/2007, of the new sentences under the YCJA, deferred custody and supervision orders were handed down most frequently. Of the 34,065 guilty cases, 1,080 (3%) received such an order. Six offences accounted for about 64% of cases ordered to deferred custody and supervision - YCJA offences, major assault, robbery, break and enter, common assault and other Criminal Code offences (Table 8).

Additionally, there were 724 reprimands handed down, accounting for 2% of guilty cases, 347 orders to intensive support and supervision programs (1%) and 213 orders to attend a non-residential program (less than 1%). Combined, these new sentences were given in 7% of all guilty cases.

Custody has become less likely in youth court cases

Consistent with the objectives of the YCJA, not only are there fewer youth appearing in court, fewer are being sentenced to custody. In 2006/2007, about 17% or 5,640 of all guilty cases resulted in a custodial sentence. This compares to 13,246 or 27% of all guilty cases in 2002/2003 (Table 10).

Custody is frequently ordered for serious violent offences under crimes against the person (Table 8). For example, in 2006/2007, 15 of the 21 guilty homicide cases (71%) and 5 of the 6 attempted murder cases where the youth was found guilty (83%) resulted in a sentence of custody. Although this proportion may seem low, custodial sentences may be affected by time spent in pre-trial detention, particularly for more serious offences where time spent in custody prior to the decision of the court and sentencing is more likely to take place, and this may have been considered ‘time served’.

Cases in which the youth was found guilty of being unlawfully at large also frequently received a custodial sentence (67%).

Almost half of custodial sentences are less than one month

In 2006/2007, 46% of cases resulting in custody and supervision were for terms of less than 1 month.18 Twenty-six percent were for terms of 1 to 3 months, 17% were for greater than 3 months and up to a 6-month term, and 7% were for terms longer than 6 months.19 The mean sentence length was 72 days (Table 12), which is also the average for the last 10 years of reported data.

The use of custody varies across Canada

In 2006/2007, the use of custody and supervision ranged from 8% of cases with convictions in Manitoba to 34% in the Yukon (Table 9, Chart 5). This variation in the use of custody may reflect the infl uence of several factors. For example, the severity of offences being sentenced can vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, rates of repeat offending can be different, the availability of suitable alternatives to custody may vary, and the availability of custodial facilities can vary.

All provinces and territories have experienced significantly large decreases in both the numbers and proportions of guilty youth cases receiving custodial sentences since the first year of the YCJA.

In terms of the actual number of guilty cases being sentenced to custody, the impact is pronounced. Nunavut experienced the smallest decline (-45%) over the 2002/2003 to 2006/2007 period. In all other provinces and territories, in 2006/2007, the number of cases where the youth was found guilty and received a sentence to custody was down more than 50% from what it was in the final year of the YOA (Table 10).

Probation is still the most common sentence for youth, but it too is on the decline

Cases in which the youth was found guilty can have more than one sentence and when accounting for multiple sentences, probation was ordered in 59% of all guilty cases in 2006/2007, far more than any other type of sentence (Table 11). However, this is much lower than the proportion in 2002/2003, when 70% of all guilty cases received a sentence of probation (Chart 6). This may be due in part to the fact that under the YOA, youth custody sentences were often followed by a period of probation to ensure some form of supervision on reintegration into the community. Under the YCJA however, all youth custody sentences have a mandatory period of supervision on release built into the sentence. Additionally, a portion of cases that may have received probation under the YOA may have received some sort of extrajudicial measure under the YCJA.

Chart 5
The proportion of guilty youth cases sentenced to custody has declined since the enactment of the YCJA

Chart 5 The proportion of guilty youth cases sentenced to custody has declined since the enactment of the YCJA

Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Youth Court Survey.

Chart 6
The proportion of guilty youth cases sentenced to probation has also declined since the enactment of the YCJA

Chart 6 Youth court cases are taking longer to process

Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Youth Court Survey.

In 2006/2007, probation (often in combination with other types of sentences) was ordered most frequently for guilty youth cases involving crimes against the person (68%) followed by crimes against property (63%) and other Criminal Code offences (61%) such as weapons and disturbing the peace (Table 8). A smaller proportion of guilty cases involving Criminal Code traffic offences and offences against the Administration of Justice (43% for each) resulted in a probation sentence.

More specifically, probation was frequently ordered in youth cases involving attempted murder (83%), sexual assault (78%), other sexual offences (78%), other crimes against the person (78%), drug trafficking (74%), break and enter (73%), robbery (73%) and other property crimes (72%).

As with the YOA, under the YCJA, youth courts may sentence a young offender to probation for a maximum of two years. In 2006/2007, the mean sentence length for probation sentences was one year (Table 12). Twenty percent of cases with a probation sentence were for a period of 6 months or less, 51% ranged from greater than 6 months to 12 months, and 23% were for more than 12 months.

Like the use of custody, the use of probation varies greatly between jurisdictions

The proportion of guilty youth cases receiving a probation sentence by province and territory spans a large range. For example, in 2006/2007, Nunavut and Prince Edward Island had the highest proportions of cases where the youth was sentenced to probation, at 91% and 85%, respectively. At the low end were New Brunswick (47%), Alberta (47%), Saskatchewan (46%) and British Columbia (44%). All other provinces ranged between 50% to 74% (Table 9).


This product is based on case characteristics data collected from the Integrated Criminal Court Survey (ICCS) and the Youth Court Survey (YCS). Data on federal statute charges offences heard and completed in youth court for persons aged 12 to 17 years (up to the 18th birthday) at the time of the offence are collected by the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics (CCJS) in collaboration with provincial and territorial government ministries responsible for the administration of courts. All youth courts in Canada have reported data to CCJS since the 1991/1992 fiscal year.

As not all youth crime is reported to police and not all youth in conflict with the law proceed to court, this report focuses on court processes and the response to youth crime rather than the prevalence of youth criminal activity.

Primary unit of analysis

The primary unit of analysis is the case. The concept of a case has changed from previous reports 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.

The impact of this change is noticeable in the compression of case counts as well as conviction rates for some jurisdictions, where certain administrative practices (e.g., use of stays, relays, withdrawals, transfers, etc.) may have resulted in multiple cases against an accused using the former definition. The new case definition is more effective for analyzing caseload, case processing and case complexity statistics, due to its nature of identifying all charges against an accused that are being heard simultaneously before the court. Since all data obtained through the ICCS and YCS have been processed using the new case defi nition, case counts presented in this report should not be compared with those in previous reports released before October 2007.

Counting procedures for cases with more than one charge

Since a case is characterized by a single charge, in cases with more than one charge it is necessary to determine the charge that will represent the case. In multiple-charge cases, the “most serious decision” rule is applied. Decisions are ranked from the most to least serious as follows: transfer to adult court (under the YOA); guilty; other decision (e.g. not fit to stand trial); stay of proceedings; charge withdrawn; or transfer to other jurisdiction; and not guilty or charge dismissed. In cases where two or more offences have resulted in the same decision (e.g., guilty), the “most serious offence” rule is applied. All charges are ranked according to a seriousness scale based on the average length of custodial sentences imposed on convicted charges between 1999/2000 and 2003/2004. If two charges have equal results according to this criterion, information about the sentence type (e.g., custody, probation, and fi ne) is considered. If the representative charge for the case still cannot be determined, the magnitude of the sentence is considered.

Factors influencing comparability of youth court statistics among jurisdictions

The reader is advised that the use of the decisions “stay” and “withdrawn” for administrative purposes (e.g., to reduce charges or to correct details on an information) varies by jurisdiction. To terminate and recommence a case for administrative purposes has been found to inflate the total number of cases reported. Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta, British Columbia and Yukon are most affected by this practice. Although every effort is made to identify and remove these occurrences, the reader is encouraged, where possible, to analyse cases with guilty findings to increase comparability among the jurisdictions.

Differences in data over time and across jurisdictions result from a number of factors that reflect how the YCJA and the YOA were implemented. Pre-court screening procedures may affect the number of youth appearing in court. The Crown Attorney, for example, may decide not to proceed with a charge, or the initial charge may be changed. A youth may also be diverted from the court process into an extrajudicial/alternative measures program (either before or after police lay charges), a police or Crown diversion program.

Glossary of terms

Decisions in youth court

The decision categories in this report are as follows:

Found guilty includes guilty (convicted) of the charged offence, of an included offence, of an attempt of the charged offence, of an attempt of an included offence, or a plea of guilt. This category also includes cases where a reprimand or an absolute or conditional discharge has been granted.

Acquittal means that the accused has been found not guilty of the charges presented before the youth court.

Stay involves a stay of proceedings, where a charge or charges are suspended, and the Crown may recommence court proceedings at a later date, within one year.

Withdrawn or dismissed refer to cases where all charges were withdrawn by the Crown (prior to the entering of a plea by the accused) or dismissed by the court. These decisions all refer to the court stopping or interrupting criminal proceedings against the accused.

Other decisions include cases that were transferred to adult court (under the YOA), transferred to another jurisdiction, the accused was found to be unfi t to stand trial, or not criminally responsible due to mental disorder.

Principal sentencing options in youth courts

The main types of sanctions that can be imposed by a youth court are presented under subsection 42(2), paragraphs (a) through (r) of the YCJA. Though many of the sanctions have been carried over from the YOA, the YCJA introduced a number of new or modified sanctions:

Non-custodial sanctions

Reprimand: A new sentencing option under the YCJA, a reprimand is the least punitive of all youth sentences, essentially involving a stern lecture from the judge. A reprimand may be most suitable in minor cases where exposure to the police and the court system alone may be deemed sufficient to hold the youth accountable for their offence. Reprimands do not result in a criminal record.

Fine: When a fine is imposed, the young person is ordered to pay a specific dollar amount to the court. The maximum amount that a youth can be fined is $1,000.

Community service: A community service order requires the youth to perform unpaid work for the community. The maximum length of a community service order is 240 hours with a maximum term of completion of 12 months.

Probation: A young person sentenced to a term of probation remains in the community, but is subject to a number of conditions for the duration of the probation order. Some conditions are compulsory and apply to all youth on probation. These include keeping the peace and appearing before the court when required to do so. The optional conditions vary from case to case, and can include a curfew, reporting to a probation officer, and attending school. The maximum length for a probation order is two years.

Intensive support and supervision order: A new sentencing option, an intensive support and supervision order was introduced in the YCJA as an alternative to custody. Similar to probation, an intensive support and supervision order is served in the community under conditions, but provides closer monitoring and support than a probation order to assist the young person in changing his or her behaviour.20 This is an ‘opt-in’ sanction under the YCJA, meaning that provinces and territories may choose not to implement this option, taking into consideration available resources.

Order to attend a non-residential program: As another possible alternative to custody introduced by the YCJA, the youth court may order the young person to attend a non-residential program at fixed times and terms. The attendance order is also an ‘opt-in’ sanction for the provinces and territories.21

Other sanctions: In addition, the courts can choose a variety of other sentencing options including compensation for damages, restitution, compensation of an innocent purchaser, personal service, prohibition, seizure or forfeiture, conditional discharge, or absolute discharge. These sentencing options pre-date the introduction of the YCJA.

Custodial sentences

Although custody is still a sentencing option, there are several criteria which must be met before a judge can sentence a youth to custody. Section 39 of the YCJA prohibits a custodial sentence unless at least one of certain threshold criteria is met. Specifically, a youth justice court shall not commit a young person to custody unless the young person: (i) has committed a violent offence; (ii) has failed to comply with non-custodial sentences; (iii) has committed an indictable offence for which an adult would be liable to imprisonment for more than two years and has a history of convictions under the YCJA or YOA; or (iv) in exceptional cases, has committed an indictable offence and the aggravating circumstances are such that the imposition of a non-custodial sentence would be inconsistent with the purpose and principles of sentencing of the YCJA.22

Even if one of the above conditions is met, the youth justice court shall not sentence the young person to custody unless the court has considered all reasonable alternatives to custody and determined that no alternatives are available that are in keeping with the purpose and principles of sentencing.23

Deferred custody and supervision order: Another new sentence under the YCJA, a deferred custody and supervision order allows a young person who would otherwise be sentenced to custody to serve the sentence in the community under a number of conditions. Similar to the conditional sentence of imprisonment for adults, violation of conditions may result in the young person being sent to custody.

Custody and supervision: All cases sentenced to custody under the YCJA have a supervision component.24 For most offences, the supervision period can be up to half as long as the custodial period, and the periods combined must not exceed the maximum sentence length specified in the YCJA. However, if the youth is convicted of manslaughter, attempted murder, or aggravated sexual assault, or is given an intensive rehabilitative custody and supervision order, the length of the custody period and supervision period is up to the discretion of the youth court, as long as the two periods combined is not greater than the maximum sentence length. The maximum lengths of custody and supervision orders for first and second degree murder remain unchanged from the YOA, however the YCJA specifies guidelines governing the maximum length of the sentence to be served in custody. If convicted of first degree murder, the youth’s sentence cannot exceed 10 years, where the committal to custody must not exceed 6 years from the date of committal, followed by a period of conditional supervision25 served in the community. For second degree murder, the total sentence cannot exceed 7 years, with the committal to custody not exceeding 4 years from the date of committal.

Intensive rehabilitative custody and supervision order: The YCJA introduced this type of sentence to provide treatment for serious violent young offenders suffering from mental or psychological disorders. The court must also determine that an individualized treatment plan has been developed for the young person.

Sentence review: The length of sentence ordered by the court may be subject to revision under conditions stipulated in the YCJA. The court must review all custodial sentences after one year. Optional reviews may be granted for custodial sentences where the amount of time to be served is less than one year, or in special circumstances26 for sentences greater than one year, but before the anniversary date. Following a hearing and review, the judge, considering the needs of the young person and the interests of society, may “confirm the youth sentence, release the youth on conditional supervision, or convert an intensive rehabilitative custody and supervision order to a straightforward custody and supervision order or to an order under the ordinary regime”.27

Reviews for non-custodial sentences are not automatic. Rather, anytime after six months following the date of the sentence (or earlier if leave is granted by a youth court judge), the youth, his or her parents, the Crown or the provincial director may apply for a review of the sentence. Following the review hearing, the youth justice court may confi rm the sentence, terminate the sentence, vary the sentence, or impose a new non-custodial sentence.

Adult sentencing: The YCJA does not provide for transfers of youth to adult court. However, youth courts may impose an adult sentence on a young offender in the exceptional case when the youth sentence for a given offence would not hold the youth accountable for his or her criminal conduct. Under the current provisions of the YCJA, an adult sentence can only be considered if the offence committed carries a maximum sentence of more than two years in adult court and the youth was 14 years or older when the offence was committed. The provinces and territories have the option of raising the minimum age to 16 years, so the second criteria may vary. For youth who are charged with murder (first or second degree), manslaughter, attempted murder, and aggravated sexual assault and for youth who have committed a violent offence and have been found guilty on at least two other occasions of serious violent offences, the presumption is that adult sentencing will apply, and the burden is on the convicted youth to show a youth sentence would be more appropriate. For all other cases, the presumption is that youth sentencing will apply.28


  1. National data for youth courts are available from 1991/1992.
  2. For analytical purposes, when a case has more than one charge, it is necessary to decide which charge will be used to represent the case. If the case includes a finding of guilt, that charge will always be considered the most serious. The most serious offence in a case with multiple guilty findings is determined based on the type of offence and the sentences imposed. See the Methodology section for more details.
  3. Other federal statute cases include drug offences and offences under the YCJA such as failure to comply with a sentence or disposition.
  4. Postcensal estimates as of July 1st, 2006, Demography Division, Census and Demographic Statistics Branch, Statistics Canada.
  5. Uniform Crime Reporting Survey, 2006, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Statistics Canada.
  6. Police-reported data are based on the calendar year (i.e., January 1st to December 31st), whereas court data are based on the fiscal year commencing April 1st to March 31st.
  7. Age represents the offender’s age in years on the day the offence was alleged to have been committed.
  8. The sex of the accused was unknown in 6% of total cases.
  9. The classification of a case as a single-charge or multiple-charge is based on the total number of charges in the case, not just those charges resulting in a finding of guilt.
  10. The mean is the average value of all the data in the dataset.
  11. Cases found guilty includes cases that have been discharged absolutely or on conditions following the finding of guilt.
  12. For cases with two or more guilty charges, see “Counting procedures for cases with more than one charge” in the Methodology section for more information on how the representative charge for the case is selected.
  13. Youth court data from all provinces and territories are available from 1991/1992 onwards.
  14. Subsections 38(1), (2), YCJA.
  15. For further detail, see “Principal sentencing options in youth courts” under the “Glossary of terms” section at the end of this report.
  16. The new YCJA sentencing options were not part of the former Youth Court Survey (YCS), rather were implemented in the new Integrated Criminal Court Survey (ICCS). The new sentences have been reported by the provinces and territories from the time that they transitioned from the YCS to the new ICCS. Historical data have been collected where available.
  17. As of 2005/2006, YCJA sentencing data were available for all provinces and territories with the exception of Saskatchewan.
  18. In this report, the sentence length referred to represents both the custodial and supervision portions of the custody and supervision order.
  19. The ICCS and the YCS cannot distinguish between consecutive and concurrent sentences and do not include sentencing revisions made under review by the court. In multiple sentence cases, for example, the sentence length may be underestimated because of the assumption of concurrent sentences for all charges and may not reflect actual time ordered.
  20. Justice Canada website (, “YCJA Explained”.
  21. Justice Canada website (, “YCJA Explained”.
  22. Subsection 39(1), YCJA.
  23. Subsection 39(2), YCJA.
  24. Under the YOA, custody and supervision was only used in sentences for first and second degree murder.
  25. Conditional supervision orders represent the community based portion of a custody and supervision order for convicted presumptive offences. Under a conditional supervision order the young offender must keep the peace, appear in youth court as required, report to the provincial director immediately upon release from custody, inform the provincial director if questioned or charged by police, report to police as required, report any address changes, comply with the instructions of the provincial director, and is prohibited from possessing any weapons.
  26. S. 94 of the YCJA sets out the circumstances under which an optional review may be granted.
  27. Justice Canada website (, “YCJA Explained”.
  28. Despite these provisions for ‘presumption’, the Quebec Court of Appeal has held that the presumption provisions of the YCJA are invalid. Therefore, rather than relying on presumption, many jurisdictions are giving notice when seeking an adult sentence for a youth accused of committing and offence. Amendments to this effect are pending.


Tuck-Jackson, A. LL.B, Weinper, Justice F., Anand, S., LL.B., LL.M., Ph.D, Tustin, L., M.Ed., editors. 2004. Annotated Youth Criminal Justice Act Service. LexisNexis Canada Inc.

Silver, W. 2007. “Crime Statistics in Canada, 2006” Juristat. Vol. 27, no. 5. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 85-002-XIE. Ottawa.

Youth Criminal Justice Act (Statute of Canada).