The Youth Criminal Justice Act: The legal procedure
Note: The numbering of the steps refers to the graph.
The young person has the right to legal counsel from the outset of the process. If charged with an indictable offence, the young person may be required to be fingerprinted and photographed.
Extrajudicial measures are measures outside the court process and can be used in the circumstances described in the Act. The Act provides for two types of extrajudicial measures: those applied by police officers and those applied by the provincial director under the extrajudicial sanctions program. The manner in which the extrajudicial sanctions program is applied is determined by the provincial director, who in Québec is Directeur de la protection de la jeunesse (DPJ).
Measures applied by the police officer
Instead of recommending that appropriate criminal proceedings be instituted, the police officer may, after an investigation and as the situation permits, take no further action, warn the young person, or refer the young person, with the young person's consent, to a program or agency in the community that may assist the young person not to commit offences. In the latter case, an alternative justice organization (AJO) provides support to the young person and supervises the fulfilling of the obligations imposed by the measure.
If, on the other hand, the police officer considers that court proceedings would be more appropriate in the circumstances, the officer will submit a request to that effect to the criminal and penal prosecuting attorney. The prosecutor will assess the evidence and, in keeping with the extrajudicial sanctions program, submit the case to the provincial director, or institute judicial proceedings.
Sanctions applied by the provincial director
When the criminal and penal prosecuting attorney submits the case to the provincial director, a youth worker will make a psychosocial evaluation of the young person and, if the case meets certain criteria, may recommend an extrajudicial sanction. An alternative justice organization (AJO) provides support to the young person and supervises the fulfilling of the obligations imposed by the sanction, in cooperation with the youth worker.
The extrajudicial sanction proposed by the youth worker to the young person may include one or more measures, such as a mediation session with the victim, a workshop on developing social skills, or community work.
A young person who is arrested cannot be held in custody before the court appearance without the authorization of the provincial director. The young person’s parents must be notified. The young person will be detained in a designated rehabilitation centre and must be brought before a youth justice court judge or a justice of the peace within 24 hours.
The young person appears before a judge of the Court of Québec in the Youth Division, or before a justice of the peace. The judge, or the justice of the peace, has the information or the indictment read to the young person and informs the young person of the right to retain and instruct counsel, that is, to be assisted by a lawyer. If the young person is not represented by a lawyer, the court must make sure, among other things, that the young person understands the charge and must explain that the young person can plead guilty or not guilty to the charge.
If the court is not satisfied that the young person understands, it must order that the young person be represented by counsel.
If the young person is accused of first or second degree murder or if the criminal and penal prosecuting attorney has given notice of the intention to seek an adult sentence for the offence, the court will explain that the young person may elect to be tried by a youth justice court judge without a jury and without a preliminary inquiry, by a judge without a jury or by a judge and jury, and that in the two latter cases a preliminary inquiry will be held only if requested.
The young person’s mother or father will be notified of the appearance and given a copy of the information or indictment.
If the young person is detained in custody at the ap-pearance, a hearing may be scheduled to determine if the young person should remain in custody during the proceedings, placed in the care of a responsible person, or released with or without conditions.
The criminal and penal prosecuting attorney may, in certain circumstances, ask the court to consider imposing an adult sentence if a young person is found guilty of an indictable offence for which an adult is liable to a prison sentence of more than two years and which was committed after the young person turned 14 years old. The young person may contest the prosecutor’s application at sentencing.
If the young person pleads not guilty, a trial is held and starts with the presentation of the evidence by the criminal and penal prosecuting attorney. Witnesses are heard and exhibits may be produced. Once the prosecution has presented all its evidence, the young person’s lawyer may present a defence. Each party may cross-examine the other party’s witnesses. The accused is not required to testify in a defence or to have witnesses called. Defence counsel and the criminal and penal prosecuting attorney then submit their arguments. The judge or the jury, as the case may be, will render a verdict after examining the evidence.
Before imposing a sentence on a young person, the judge may, or must in certain cases, order a pre-sentence report, which will be prepared by a youth worker. The purpose of the report is to provide a portrait of the young person’s situation that will assist the court in imposing a sentence in keeping with the principles of the Act.
If the accused pleads guilty or is found guilty, the court imposes a sentence. The youth sentence may include one or more of the following sanctions: the performance of a community service, a probation period with or without supervision, an intensive support and supervision program, an open or secure custody and supervision order, a deferred custody and supervision order, a fine, a conditional or absolute discharge, or a restitution order.
The Act provides for several types of sentence reviews.
The young person or the criminal and penal prosecuting attorney may appeal the verdict rendered or the sentence imposed by the judge who presided over the trial. However, certain rules of law govern the appeal process; a party cannot appeal simply because it is dissatisfied with the judgment.
Youth justice committes and conferences
Youth justice committees are committees of citizens appointed to assist in the administration of the Act or in any program or service for young persons.
Conferences allow citizens to take part in the judicial process. Conferences are convened at the request of a youth justice court judge, the provincial director, a police officer, a justice of the peace, an criminal and penal prosecuting attorney or a youth worker for the purpose of a decision required to be made under the Act.
For more information
Legal proceedings and possible sentences:
- Victims of criminal acts: Understanding the court system and sentencing procedure
The jurisdiction of each court in Québec:
Key information on the street gang problem
Laws relating to young people:
The content of this document is strictly informative and has no legal value.
If you find some of the information difficult to understand, do not hesitate to contact us. Please note, however, that we cannot interpret the information to apply it to a specific situation.