Regardless of their young age, youth offenders can face serious consequences when they come into contact with the youth criminal justice system. However, the approach to addressing youth crime is constantly evolving, and Canada is at the forefront of implementing innovative solutions aimed at rehabilitating young offenders while steering them away from the cycle of reoffending.
This blog examines the significance of extrajudicial sanctions, the role they play in the lives of young offenders, and the impact they have made. These sanctions represent a progressive approach to rehabilitation, restoration, and community involvement rather than focusing on punitive measures.
Extrajudicial Sanctions and the Youth Criminal Justice Act
Section 37(a) of the Youth Criminal Justice Act addresses extrajudicial sanctions (also referred to as “EJS”), which are non-court measures used to hold young offenders accountable for their criminal conduct. Extrajudicial sanctions are post-charge programs which provide a “timely method for young persons charged with a criminal offence to admit responsibility for their criminal behaviour and participate in meaningful interventions that hold them accountable.”
Young offenders are entitled to different considerations under the criminal justice system because they have “heightened vulnerability, less maturity and a reduced capacity for moral judgment due to their age.” However, this does not absolve young offenders from taking responsibility for their actions. Completion of an extrajudicial sanction will remain on a young offender’s youth court record for two years and may be considered by a youth justice court if the individual is involved in future proceedings.
What Are Extrajudicial Sanctions?
Extrajudicial measures have been incorporated into Canadian criminal law in various forms, including:
- Police warnings;
- Crown cautions;
- Taking no further actions if sufficient measures have been taken by someone else, such as the youth’s parents; or
- Extrajudicial sanctions in more serious cases.
Extrajudicial sanctions offer an alternative to traditional judicial processes in serious cases, recognizing the rehabilitation and reintegration of young individuals into society should be prioritized over punitive measures. Section 4(d) of the Youth Criminal Justice Act outlines the principles of extrajudicial measures in the Canadian criminal justice system. These principles highlight the need for a holistic approach when dealing with youth in conflict with the law. Because young offenders are often at a crucial stage of their development when charged, offering a supportive environment coupled with suitable interventions provides an opportunity to guide them towards a positive and law-abiding future.
Who Administers Extrajudicial Sanction Programming?
In Ontario, extrajudicial sanctions are administered by either a local Youth Justice Committee or the Ministry of Children and Youth Services. The extrajudicial sanction programming a young offender participates in aims to address their offending behaviour through tailored, meaningful consequences, which may include restitution or reconciliation with the victims of their actions.
For example, the Extrajudicial Sanctions Program administered by the John Howard Society allows a youth to meet with a society worker. Based on their offence, abilities and needs, assigned sanctions such as restitution to victims, charitable work, or learning-based prevention programming specific to the offence must be completed. Upon completing this program, the Crown Attorney is notified, and the court will ordinarily stay the youth’s charge. If the extrajudicial sanction programming is not successfully completed, the Crown can proceed with charges against the youth.
When Are Extrajudicial Sanctions Appropriate?
Extrajudicial sanctions may only be considered if the prosecution believes there is a reasonable prospect of conviction. Further, the prosecution cannot impose additional requirements on the accused youth as a precondition to offering extrajudicial sanctions.
Some examples of charges where extrajudicial sanctions might be offered include:
- Uttering a threat; or
- Theft under $5,000.
Limitations on the Availability of Extrajudicial Sanctions
Section 10(3)(a) of the Youth Criminal Justice Act bars the use of extrajudicial sanctions when the youth denies participation or involvement in the offence in question. Additionally, a young offender may be ineligible for extrajudicial sanctions based on the nature of the charges, which can include:
- Murder, manslaughter and criminal negligence causing death;
- Terrorism offences;
- Human trafficking offences;
- Robbery and home invasions;
- Child abuse and child luring;
- Sexual assault causing bodily harm; and
- Impaired driving with a prohibited blood alcohol concentration or refusing to provide a breath sample.
Factors for Consideration for Extrajudicial Sanctions
When determining whether extrajudicial sanctions will be appropriate in measuring a young offender’s accountability, the Crown attorney must consider various factors about the individual in question, including:
- Their personal background, including their age, prior offences, mental health concerns, and whether they have been involved in the child welfare system;
- The nature and circumstances of the offence, including whether it is summary or indictable, the age of the victim, whether there was bullying involved, and whether the offence was motivated by hate, prejudice, or bias; and
- Additional administration of justice considerations, including the likely sentence upon a finding of guilt, frailties in the prosecution, and whether a referral to extrajudicial sanctions accelerates a just result.
Contact the Oshawa Juvenile Criminal Defence Lawyers at Barrison Law for Exceptional Representation for Young Offenders
The experienced criminal defence lawyers at Barrison Law in Oshawa represent juvenile offenders across the Durham Region, including Pickering, Ajax and Whitby, who are facing charges related to theft, assault, drugs and weapons offences. Our team understands the difficulties and uncertainties surrounding young offender charges and works closely with clients, regardless of their age, to ensure they are positioned to obtain the best possible outcome. To learn more about how we can help your child, contact us online or call our office at 905-404-1947 to speak with a member of our team.