The February 1997 resolution is:

Resolved that s. 13 (1) of the Young Offenders Act should be amended as follows: The words "for a purpose mentioned in paragraphs 2(a) to (f) shall be replaced by "for any purpose" and subsection (2) shall be deleted.

Background:

The Young Offenders Act currently requires that a psychological assessment can only be ordered by the Youth Court for specific purposes. These include an application for transfer to adult Court and sentencing after a finding of guilt. The Court cannot utilize a psychological assessment during the determination of guilt or innocence except as provided in s. 13.1 .

The Resolution proposes that these limitations be removed. A Court could order a psychological assessment any time that the Judge thought it necessary. This would provide wide flexibility in assessing and rehabilitating the young person even before a finding of guilt.

Some commentators have suggested that the Young Offenders Act focuses too much on protection of a young person's rights and not enough on fixing his or her problems. An early assessment by a psychologist could assure that the young person's needs were apparent during the trial.

Research Tips:

1. Interview a psychologist who works with a Youth Court. Would he or she prefer to do an assessment at an earlier stage than is now possible?

2. Interview a Youth Court Judge. Would the Judge prefer to know about the young person's psychological needs prior to the determination of guilt or innocence?

3. Interview a lawyer with experience in the field of civil liberties. Is it wise for a society to permit psychological assessments of alleged criminals prior to a determination of guilt or innocence? Are there any dangers? How might an oppressive government abuse such power?

4. Are adult Court Judges permitted to order psychological assessments of accused persons who are coming before them for trial? If not, why not? Why should it be any different for young persons?

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