Extrajudicial treatment of offences committed by young people
If you have bullied or injured a fellow student, stolen jewellery, clothing or a car, or driven a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you have committed an offence and may be brought to trial if you are aged 12 or over. In some cases, you may even receive an adult sentence if you are 14 or over.
The judicial process applicable to a young person is similar to the process for an adult. If you have committed an offence, the police may arrest you and take your photograph and fingerprints. They may also hold you in custody. If charges are brought against you, your case will go through the same stages as an adult case.
However, as a minor, you are entitled to benefit from extrajudicial measures, extrajudicial sanctions and specific penalties.
An extrajudicial measure results from a decision by the police not to prosecute you for an offence you have committed. The goal is to ensure that you take responsibility for your actions without having to go through the judicial process.
The police may apply one of four extrajudicial measures:
- take no further action;
- give you a warning;
- give you a caution;
- give you a compulsory referral to a community program designed to help young people avoid committing offences.
Whatever the measure chosen, the police will notify your parents of the offence you have committed.
The police may also make an entry in the computer system of the Québec police information centre (Centre des renseignements policiers du Québec) that you are subject to an extrajudicial measure. The system gives police forces access to various information files, such as those kept by the Société de l'assurance automobile du Québec.
No further action
If the situation allows, the police may choose to take no further action against you. This means that no further response is required because:
- you committed a minor offence;
- you did not injure anybody;
- you did not cause any damage.
The police may give you an informal warning, and explain the consequences of your actions to you.
The police may give you a caution, which is a more formal warning that may involve a letter from the police to you and your parents requiring you and your parents to appear at the police station for a meeting.
During the meeting, the police will inform you and your parents about your activities and their consequences.
Referral to an activity
In some cases, the police may prefer to have you participate in an activity to dissuade you from committing other offences, for example in a case where the offence you committed had serious consequences.
The referral may involve:
- participating in an information and awareness activity; or
- performing volunteer work.
However, this measure may be applied to you only if you agree.
Forwarding of the file to the prosecuting attorney
If the police consider that no extrajudicial measure is suitable, they may forward your file to the criminal and penal prosecuting attorney.
The prosecuting attorney assesses the evidence and, under the extrajudicial sanction program, may:
- send you a warning and take no further action;
- forward your file to the director of youth protection, who may impose an extrajudicial sanction;
- bring charges against you.
The prosecuting attorney may also decide to forward your file to the director of youth protection after your first appearance.
After receiving your file, the director of youth protection transfers it to a youth worker, who will contact you to conduct a psychological and social evaluation.
Your situation must also be suitable for the imposition of an extrajudicial sanction.
If it is not suitable, the youth worker may transfer your file to the prosecuting attorney so that your case can be brought to trial.
If there is a trial, the court cannot use against you, as evidence, anything you admitted to the youth worker.
Types of extrajudicial sanction
If you have caused harm to a victim, the youth worker may require you to:
- return the items you stole to the victim;
- give the victim an amount of money as compensation;
- attend a mediation session with the victim;
- send the victim a letter of apology.
The youth worker will consult the victim about the choice of sanction.
In addition, the youth worker may require you to pay a fine or perform community work.
The youth worker may impose more than one sanction.
If the prosecuting attorney brings charges against you, they will be listed in the information read out to you at the start of the trial. For the most part the trial will include the same steps as an adult trial, but except in exceptional cases will take place in the Youth Division of the Court of Québec.
If you are found guilty by the judge, you will receive a specific sentence, which may involve:
- a fine;
- the payment of compensation to the victim;
- an absolute or conditional discharge.
The judge may also make a custody and supervision order, requiring you to:
- live for a specified time in specialized custody, in other words a rehabilitation centre;
- be subject to supervision by a youth worker or police officer.
In choosing a specific sentence, the judge takes into account any pre-sentence report filed by the youth worker at the judge’s request. The report is intended to make the judge aware of your situation.
In some cases, the prosecuting attorney may call for you to receive an adult sentence if you are found guilty by the judge and if:
- you are aged 14 or over;
- you have committed an offence for which an adult would receive a sentence of more than two years.
The prosecuting attorney is free to make this request, and must consider the possibility if you have committed a serious offence such as murder or sexual assault and are aged 14 or over. If the prosecuting attorney considers that an adult sentence is not appropriate, he or she must state this to the court.
Impact on the trial
If the prosecuting attorney decides to call for an adult sentence, you must be informed of this before the trial. In fact, you are generally informed before you enter a plea of guilty or not guilty at your first appearance.
At this point you must choose one of the following types of trial:
- trial before a judge in the Youth Division of the Court of Québec,without a jury or preliminary inquiry;
- trial before a judge in the Criminal and Penal Division of the Court of Québec, without a jury or preliminary inquiry;
- trial before a judge and jury in the Criminal and Penal Division, with or without a preliminary inquiry.
Decision by the judge
If you are found guilty, the prosecuting attorney will ask the judge to impose an adult sentence on you. The judge will do this only if he or she is satisfied that:
- you are mature enough to be morally responsible for your actions;
- no other sentence will ensure that you take responsibility for your actions, since the judge considers that you are unwilling to correct your behaviour.
To make this decision, the judge will take into consideration:
- the seriousness of the offence you committed;
- the circumstances in which you committed the offence;
- your criminal record;
- your personality;
- your maturity.