When an accused person is a young person who was under the age of 18 at the time of an alleged criminal act is charged with a criminal offence, that accused person is dealt with under the provisions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act (the “YCJA”).
Treatment of the accused under the YCJA varies from treatment of an adult accused in a number of important ways. In general, sentencing and other procedural aspects of the YCJA are designed to acknowledge the lack of maturity of young persons charged with criminal offences. In the words of the YCJA preamble: “Canadian society should have a youth criminal justice system that commands respect, takes into account the interests of victims, fosters responsibility and ensures accountability through meaningful consequences and effective rehabilitation and reintegration, and that reserves its most serious intervention for the most serious crimes and reduces the over-reliance on incarceration for non-violent young persons”.
It is important to note, of course, that being convicted of a criminal offence as a young person may have considerable short and long-term consequences to a young person and should never be treated lightly.