The April 1997 resolution is:
Resolved that s. 4 of the Young Offenders Act should be rescinded.
The Young Offenders Act permits young persons charged with minor offences to be dealt with in a manner other than judicial proceedings. In Ontario, the young person is charged, brought to Court, and on first appearance may apply to be considered for alternative measures. If accepted by the Crown and probation, the charge is stayed pending completion of the alternative measures or withdrawn. The only criminal record will be one of participation in alternative measures. There will be no finding of guilt.
Alternative measures may include work in the community such as cutting grass or shovelling snow for seniors, coaching hockey, writing an apology or essay, posters, community fund raising, and restitution. I suggest to young persons and their parents that they propose their own alternative measures to the authorities based on the young person's skills, needs, and interests. That ensures that the community work will be interesting and to the extent that the local community service co-ordinator does not need to do the hunting for a placement, saves money for the taxpayer. There are problems, however, with the system. Sometimes alternative measures are refused or agreed to by a busy Crown Attorney who has no time to carefully use his or her discretion or to check eligibility. The moderator knows of a case where a young person received alternative measures notwithstanding that a new offence was committed within days after the young person received alternative maasures for a more serious offence. Sometimes young persons feel encouraged by parents to sign up for alternative measures even though the young person perceives that he or she is not guilty. There are also cases where young persons receive alternative measures because their offence is considered eligible but in reality they should not receive a break because they have no remorse.
1. Interview a Crown Attorney or a duty counsel in your jurisdiction to determine the criteria for alternative measures eligibility? Is the standard too high or too low?
2. Interview someone you know who has been charged and participated in alternative measures. DON'T WRITE DOWN THEIR NAME. Ask them whether the consequences they received matched the seriousness of what they did wrong?
3. Make specific proposals about how the system should be improved.
4. Some jurisdictions, like Peel in Ontario have excellent adult diversion programs for adult shoplifters. Why shouldn't young persons have access to similar programs? Research adult diversion in your jurisdiction.
Stephen R. Biss, Barrister & Solicitor
470 Hensall Circle, Suite 303
905-273-3322 or 1-877-273-3322
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