Youth Court Law
Stephen R. Biss, B.A., LL.B.

Detail About the Young Offenders Act
The Young Offenders Act Parents' Page
Sentencing Under the Young Offenders Act
The Great Young Offenders Act Debate

Canadians brought to criminal court are generally charged with offences under the Criminal Code of Canada or the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

Children (ages 0 to 11) are dealt with in Ontario under the Child and Family Services Act. Young persons (ages 12 to 17 inclusive) face the same criminal offences as adults. Although they are dealt with procedurally under the Young Offenders Act, their guilt or innocence is determined in a manner similar to adults. Young persons and their parents should not assume that they will be treated any less harshly than adults. Young persons often are more likely to go to jail than adults. There is no system of intermittent sentence for young persons in Ontario. Parents must often travel long distances to visit their children in custody. Adults generally only serve a portion of their sentence because of parole and remission of sentence. Young persons serve their entire sentence unless the original Youth Court varies the length of time in custody. Since April 1, 1984 I have maintained a research database of sentencing dispositions at Brampton, Ontario Family Court for adolescents ages 12 to 15.

If you are stopped by police or are invited or brought to a police station you should be aware that the police will probably want to ask you questions. They may ask you to sign a waiver of your right to consult with your parents or your lawyer or both. You have the right to consult either or both. You may consult on the telephone or in person or both. You may ask questions and get advice from a lawyer before and during any interrogation. You may ask that your parents and/or your lawyer be present during questioning. You may politely decline to answer any questions at all.

Phone me at 905-273-3322 for free emergency legal advice either before going to the police station or at the police station. If you can't reach me, ask the police for the toll free number 1-800-265-0451 or dial 416-868-0720 for 24 hour duty counsel. Advice from duty counsel is free and easy to obtain for persons in police custody. Telephone duty counsel is not available to parents or relatives. Research shows that, unfortunately, young persons tend to waive (give up) their rights to consult parents and lawyers all too easily.

Further information on the Young Offenders Act