Ontario Sets 12 Month Ceiling for Youth Cases

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

As we have previously blogged about, the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. Jordan established that adult criminal cases decided in the provincial courts must be resolved within 18 months. In circumstances where cases exceed the 18 months ceiling, it has been found that the accused’s rights under section 11(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (“Charter”) have been violated and a stay of proceedings may be granted, except under “exceptional circumstances”.

The Ontario Youth Court of Justice recently held that a 12-month ceiling should apply for youth cases. In the case of R. v. D.A., the Court applied section 3(1)(b) of the Youth Criminal Justice Act (“YCJA”) which states that youth court proceedings should be carried out with “promptness and speed…given young persons’ perception of time”. This is the first reported decision to specifically establish a lower ceiling for youth cases than adult cases.

The accused, D.A., applied for an order for a stay of proceedings under section 24(2) of the Charter arguing that his rights have been infringed pursuant to section 11(b). He maintained that it will take 18 months and 7 days for the completion of his trial, which is unreasonable and exceeds the presumptive ceiling set by the SCC in R. v. Jordan. Furthermore, the accused submitted that a young person should be subject to a lower presumptive ceiling.

WHAT HAPPENED?

On a date between January 1, 2015 and November 4, 2016, the accused allegedly was observed to be grinding his penis into a three years old’s buttocks as he lay on the floor.

During this same time period, the accused allegedly pulled down his pants and underwear exposing his penis to a nine-year-old boy (the accused’s first cousin) and a four-year-old boy. The accused allegedly asked the boys to touch his penis, which they did.

On December 6, 2016, the accused was interviewed by police without the presence of his mother. At that time, he provided a partially incriminating statement.

The accused was then charged with 8 offences, including sexual assault, sexual interference and invitation to sexual touching. He was released on an undertaking to a peace officer and a promise to appear.

THE NEED FOR TIMELY RESOLUTION OF CRIMINAL COURT MATTERS

The judicious conclusion of criminal court cases is a fundamental right of all accused individuals found within section 11(b) of the Charter. It is also an important factor in ensuring public confidence in the Canadian criminal justice system.

The timely culmination of criminal court matters is also important for witnesses, victims and their families. Proceeding in this manner assists with the accurate recall of information related to the crime and allows for emotional and psychological closure.

The SCC case of R. v. Jordan set out a new framework and timelines for processing criminal court cases in Canada. The Court set out a “presumptive ceiling” for completing criminal court cases and anything beyond these time periods is deemed unreasonable. However, if a delay is caused by the defence it will not count towards the presumptive ceiling (ie. requesting unnecessary adjournments). Once the presumptive ceiling has been exceeded, the burden is on the Crown prosecutor to justify the delay on the basis of exceptional circumstances.

BRINGING YOUTH MATTERS TO TRIAL EXPEDITIOUSLY

Individuals who are charged between the ages of 12 and 17 are processed through youth courts in Canada, which operate independently from adult criminal courts. The YCJA provides more proportionate accountability for young persons through age appropriate sentences and the promotion of rehabilitation.

Canada has acknowledged the necessity that criminal proceedings involving young persons should generally be brought to trial faster than adult matters. This has been codified in section 3 of the YCJA.

The Ontario Court of Appeal has also provided reasoning for the belief that young persons should be brought to trial faster in several its decisions. These reasons include:

  • The ability of a young person to appreciate the connection between offending behaviour and consequences will weaken the longer the proceedings take to complete;
  • The perception of time for a young person may be distorted when compared to that of an adult; and
  • The need to sentence young persons while they remain in his/her formative years.

In the case of R. v. D.A., Justice P.T. O’Marra found that the total delay was 555 days less the defence delay of 28 days, resulting in a total delay of 527 days (17 months and 2 weeks). Justice O’Marra irrefutably stated there should be a reduced presumptive ceiling of 12 months for youth cases that are non-complex cases. Therefore, Justice O’Marra held that the delay in this non-complex case was not reasonable, was well over the “youth presumptive ceiling of twelve months” and accordingly the application was allowed and the proceedings were stayed.

If you are a youth that has been charged with a crime, or are the parent of a young person that has been charged with a crime, please contact the experienced criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. We maintain a 24-hour call service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times.