Bill C-10 and the YCJA: an important note

Sgt. Smith to teen shoplifter, by phone: ‘This is Sgt. Smith of the Winnipeg police. I understand you are being held for shoplifting. I am hereby warning you.’

Teen shoplifter: ‘Huh?’

Smith: ‘I am warning you.’

Teen: ‘OK?’

-end conversation

[Three days later, different store, same cop, same shoplifter, by phone]

Sgt. Smith: ‘This is Sgt. Smith of the Winnipeg police. I understand you are being held for shoplifting. I am hereby cautioning you.’

Teen: OK.

Sgt. Smith: ‘You are hereby cautioned.’

-end conversation

It’s often stated that the kids who actually wind up in custody at the youth centre and have to go before a judge are just the top of an iceberg in the city in terms of the number of offences committed by kids.

Under the YCJA — and its current focus on rehabilitation and ‘meaningful consequences’ for kid offenders — there’s a huge number of diversion tactics, known as extra-judical measures and sanctions that are often used as a first, last resort to scare non-violent kids from crime and keep them out of the court system.

Will the police consider these measures for me?

Yes. A police officer must consider using an extrajudicial measure if the offence is non-violent and if you have not been found guilty of a previous offence.

The Youth Criminal Justice Act sets out as a key principle that it should be presumed that an extrajudicial measure will be sufficient to hold a young person accountable for his or her behaviour.

These sanctions can range on a quasi-sliding scale from a police warning and caution [as evidenced above from a real-life example] to Crown warnings and cautions and voluntary referrals to programming etc.

In other words, it’s a number of ‘first, last chances’ before actually being charged with a crime and having to come to court.

While Bill C-10, the federal government’s omnibus crime bill, won’t remove these measures [that I know of], it does propose to make a major change that should prove revealing regarding their effectiveness.

Judges will now be told of them in court, and Crowns can rely on prior uses of extrajudicial measures as a reason for jail in indictable [serious offences]

Today, I’ve yet to hear of a judge be told of a kid’s pre-criminal history, of efforts made by police and justice officials to give them chances to get right or else.

The YCJA reads as follows today:

Clause 173: Relevant portion of subsection 39(1):
39. (1) A youth justice court shall not commit a young person to custody under section 42 (youth sentences) unless
(c) the young person has committed an indictable offence for which an adult would be liable to imprisonment for a term of more than two years and has a history that indicates a pattern of findings of guilt under this Act or the Young Offenders Act, chapter Y-1 of the Revised Statutes of Canada, 1985; or …
And is set to be changed to:
A youth justice court shall not commit a young person to custody under section 42 (youth sentences) unless
(c) the young person has committed an indictable offence for which an adult would be liable to imprisonment for a term of more than two years and has a history that indicates a pattern of either extrajudicial sanctions or of findings of guilt or of both under this Act or the Young Offenders Act, chapter Y-1 of the Revised Statutes of Canada, 1985; or

It’s another, dare I say, clever way of the federal government to try and put some sharper teeth into our youth justice laws.

It’s also one I have yet to hear word one about.

The question is: does so-called small crime like shoplifting pave the way towards more substantive offences?

Some authorities say yes — and the tale of ‘Burglar Jimmy’ is one example of this.

The only issue I can see with the proposed rule is that now cops and Crowns will have to keep detailed records of how many times they gave Jimmy a chance before he burned down the house or mugged the maid. I’m not 100 per cent sure they do right now.

[See comment below].

-30-

As an aside: Could we please legislate in C-10 the addition of that peculiar British vernacular where being convicted of a crime, or getting arrested is referred as: “Got done for?”

Example: “I got done for drink drive when I was 18 and never got my license back,” said Ms. Butterfarthing.

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