The August 1996 resolution is:

Resolved that s. 56 of the Young Offenders Act be repealed.


In Canadian law, statements made by accused persons (whether adults or young persons) are not admissible into evidence unless they are voluntary. This means that if a confession is the product of threats or inducements by the police, it cannot be used against the accused in Court.

Young persons and adults also have extensive rights to counsel under s. 10 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Section 56 of the Young Offenders Act gives young persons special rights in addition to those available to adults such as the right to consult with neutral support persons prior to and during questioning. A confession is not admissible unless the young person is given a reasonable opportunity to exercise these rights or the young person waives them. A repeal of s. 56 would take away the special rights.

Ontario's Attorney General Charles Harnick and Solicitor General Robert Runciman have proposed that s. 56 be amended so that the waiver form used can be shorter and less complicated.

A study conducted in Mississauga, Ontario and published in the Canadian Journal of Criminology concluded that during a simulated arrest using standard Peel Region cautions and waivers, few young persons understood their rights or the implications of waiving or not waiving their rights.

For more information please see:

Abramovitch,  R., Higgins-Biss, K., and Biss, S., Young  persons' 

             comprehension of waivers in criminal proceedings.,  Canadian 

             Journal of Criminology, July 1993. 309-322.


Research Tips:

1. What standard cautions and warnings do police use with young persons in your jurisdiction? What waiver form is used by police in your jurisdiction? Is the same form used throughout your province or does it vary from city to city? Is the form understandable? Does it comply with s. 56 of the Young Offenders Act? Interview local police officers to find out.

2. Read the above-mentioned study in the Canadian Journal of Criminology. Replicate in your own classroom the method and procedure used in the study. Do your results differ?

3. Interview a Crown Attorney and a defence lawyer in your jurisdiction. Does the Crown frequently find it difficult to prove statements made by young persons? If so, has the Crown Attorney's Office looked into revising the local cautions, rights, and waivers to make them more understandable?.

The following references, courtesy of K. Higgins-Biss, may be of assistance:


Campbell, Sarah F. (1976). Piaget_Sampler:_An_Introduction_to Jean_Piaget_Through_His_Own_Words. New York: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.

Demetriou, Andreas, and Charitides, Leonidas. (1986). The adolescent's construction of procedural justice as a function of age, formal thought, and sex. International_Journal_of_Psychology, 21, 333-353.

Flavell, John H. (1985). Cognitive_Development. 2d. ed. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc.

Ferguson, A. Bruce, and Douglas, Alan Charles. (1970). A study of juvenile waiver. San_Diego_Law_Review,7, 39-54.

Grisso, Thomas. (1986). Evaluating_Competencies:_Forensic Assessments_and_Instruments. New York: Plenum Press.

Grisso, Thomas. (1980). Juveniles' capacities to waive Miranda rights: an empirical analysis. California_Law_Review, 68, 1134-1166.

Grisso, Thomas. Juveniles consent in delinquency proceedings. (1983) In Melton, G.B., Koocher, G.P., and Saks, M.J. (Eds.). Children's_Competence_to_Consent.. New York: Plenum Press.

Grisso, Thomas. (1981). Juveniles'_Waiver_of_Rights:__Legal__and Psychological_Competence. New York: Plenum Press.

Grisso, Thomas, and Manoogian, Sam. (1980). Juveniles' comprehension of Miranda warnings. In Lipsitt, P.D. & Sales, B.D. (Eds.). New_Directions_in_Psycholegal_Research. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.

Grisso, Thomas, and Pomicter, Carolyn. (1977). Interrogation of juveniles: An empirical study of procedures, safeguards, and rights waiver. Law_and_Human_Behaviour, 1, 321-342.

Grusec, Joan E., and Lytton, Hugh. (1988). Social__Development: History,_Theory,_and_Research. New York: Springer-Verlag.

Inbau, Fred E., and Reid, John E. (1967). Criminal__Interrogation and_Confessions. Baltimore: The Williams & Wilkins Company.

Jaffe, Peter G., Leschied, Alan D. W., and Farthing, Jane L. (1987). Youth's knowledge and attitudes about the Young Offenders Act: Does anyone care what they think? Canadian_Journal_of_ Criminology, 29, 309-316.

Kenney, John P., Pursuit, Dan G., Fuller, Donald E., and Barry, Robert F. (1982). Police_Work_with_Juveniles_and_the_Administration_of_Juvenile_Justice.6th_ed. Springfield, Illinois: Charles C. Thomas.

Kohlberg, Lawrence. (1968). The child as a moral philosopher. Psychology_Today,2(4), 24-30.

Kohlberg, Lawrence, and Tapp, June L. (1971). Developing Senses of Law and Legal Justice. Journal_of_Social_Issues,27(2), 65-91.

Melton, Gary B. (1983). Child_Advocacy:_Psychological_Issues__and Interventions. New York: Plenum Press.

Melton, Gary B. (1983). Toward "personhood" for adolescents: autonomy and privacy as values in public policy. American__Psychologist,39, 99-103.

Melton, Gary B. (1981). Psycholegal issues in juveniles' competency to waive their rights. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, Winter, 59-62.

Melton, Gary B. Children's rights: Where are the children? American_Journal_of_Orthopsychiatry, 52(3), 530-538.

Rafkey, David M., and Sealey, Ronald W. (1975). The adolescent and the law: a survey. Crime_and_Delinquency, 4, 131-138.

Regina_v._M.A.M., (1986), 32 C.C.C. (3d) 566 (B.C. C.A.)

Robin, Gerald. (1982). Juvenile interrogation and confessions. Journal_of_Police_Science_and_Administration, 10(2), 224-228.

R. v. Bartle

R. v. J. (J.T.), [1987] 3 W.W.R. 481 (Man. C.A.), (1990) 59 C.C.C. (3d) 1 (S.C.C.)

R. v. T.(E.) (1993), 86 C.C.C. (3d) 289 (S.C.C.)

Saunders, LaVell E. (1981). Ignorance of the law among teenagers: Is it a barrier to the exertion of their rights as citizens? Adolescence, 16(63), 711-726.

Saywitz, Karen J. (1988). Children's conceptions of the legal system: "Court is a place to play basketball". In Ceci, S.J., Ross, D.F., & Toglia, M.P. (Eds.). Perspectives_on_Children's_Testimony. New York: Springer Verlag.

Tapp, June L. (1969). Psychology and the law: the dilemma. Psychology_Today,_2(9), 16-22.

Tapp, June L. (1970). A child's garden of law and order. Psychology_Today,_4(7), 29-31, 62-64.

Torney, Judith V. Socialization of attitudes toward the legal system. Journal_of_Social_Issues, 27(2), 137-154.

Weithorn, Lois A., and Campbell, Susan B. The competency of children and adolescents to make informed treatment decisions. Child_Development, 53, 1589-1598.

Friedman, Lawrence M. (1971). The idea of right as a social and legal concept. Journal_of_Social Issues, 27(2), 189-198.

Lewis, Catherine C. (1981). How adolescents approach decisions: Changes over grades seven to twelve and policy implications. Child_Development, 52, 538-544.



List of Young Offenders Debates



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Stephen R. Biss, Barrister & Solicitor

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Advertisement. Any legal opinions expressed at this site relate to the Province of Ontario, Canada only. If you reside or carry on business in any other jurisdiction please consult a lawyer, solicitor, or attorney in your own jurisdiction. WARNING: All information contained herein is provided for the purpose of providing basic information only and should not be construed as formal legal advice. The author disclaims any and all liability resulting from reliance upon such information. You are strongly encouraged to seek and retain professional legal advice before relying upon any of the information contained herein.