Dec 17

What is the Youth Criminal Justice Act?

The Youth Criminal Justice Act addresses how individuals under the age of 18 are dealt with throughout the criminal justice process. The YCJA very clearly outlines the process the courts must follow in determining whether a young person should be denied bail. Although the Criminal Code still applies to bail for young persons except for circumstances when it is inconsistent with or explicitly excluded by the YCJA, in practice, the Act contains a complete and comprehensive bail scheme that fully encompasses the bail provisions in the Code. Counsel appearing for a young person’s bail hearing should familiarize themselves with the relevant sections of the YCJA; in particular, section 29(2).

Section 29(2) of the YCJA outlines the criteria for detention of a young person.

When can a Youth be Detained?

The YCJA outlines that a young person must either be charged with a serious offence (defined in section 2 of the YCJA as an indictable offence for which the maximum punishment is imprisonment for 5 years or more), or, if the offence charged is not a serious offence, the individual must have a history that shows a pattern of outstanding charges or findings of guilt. The latter requirement means the Crown must lead evidence of at least three prior findings of guilt or outstanding charges. If neither of these factors apply to the young person before the court, that person cannot be detained and that is the end of the matter. If one of these criterions does apply, the court must then look at the factors in 29(2)(b).

Section 29(2)(b) of the YCJA mirrors the primary, secondary and tertiary grounds found in the Criminal Code, with some key differences to reflect the enhanced protection that the law affords to youths. For the secondary ground concerns, it is not sufficient for the crown to prove that there is a substantial likelihood that if released, the young person will commit a further offence. The section specifies that it must be a “serious offence”, as defined in the YCJA. The tertiary grounds can only be relied upon in exceptional circumstances.

What is a Responsible Person?

If detention would otherwise be required, section 31 of the YCJA requires that the presiding justice inquire about the availability of a “responsible person” as an alternative to detaining the youth. This person undertakes to the court that they will ensure the young person attends their court appearance and adheres to their release conditions. This role differs from that of a surety; if someone who has been named as a responsible person by the court willfully fails to meet their obligations, they can be charged with an offence under section 139(1) of the YCJA and could face a maximum sentence of two years imprisonment.

Youth Bail Lawyers

The lawyers of Lockyer Zaduk Zeeh are experienced youth bail lawyers. We place substantial emphasis on our client’s freedom whether that is during the bail hearing phase or on a bail review. We work with you and your sureties to ensure you have the best chance of release pending your trial.

If you child or loved one needs a lawyer, call us at (416) 613-0416 or (416) 595-9500 or contact us at for a consultation.