The October 1996 resolution is:
Resolved that s. 20 (1) (k) and (k.1) of the Young Offenders Act shall be repealed and replaced by the following:
(k) subject to sections 24 to 24.5, commit the young person to custody, to be served continuously or intermittently, for a specified period not exceeding
(i) five years from the date of committal, or
(ii) where the young person is found guilty of an offence for which the punishment provided by the Criminal Code or any other Act of Parliament is imprisonment for life, ten years from the date of committal;
(k.1) order the young person to serve a disposition not to exceed
(i) in the case of first degree murder, life imprisonment comprised of
(A) a committal to custody, to be served continuously, for a period that shall not, subject to subsection 26.1(1), exceed twenty-five years from the date of committal, and
(B) a placement under conditional supervision to be served in the community in accordance with section 26.2, and
(ii) in the case of second degree murder, life imprisonment comprised of
(A) a committal to custody, to be served continuously, for a period that shall not, subject to subsection 26.1(1), exceed ten years from the date of committal, and
(B) a placement under conditional supervision to be served in the community in accordance with section 26.2; and
Recently, two students have contacted Stephen Biss indicating that they were working on papers considering whether or not the sentencing provisions of the Young Offenders Act ought to be made more draconian in an attempt to reduce serious youth crime. Although statistics seem to indicate that youth crime is no more serious than it was 10, 15, or 20 years ago many people feel that young persons are out of control in our society.
1. Interview a youth court judge, probation officer, or lawyer in your jurisdiction and find out non-identifying details of a sentencing for murder or other serious offence in your community. Was the sentence too high or too low? What were the aggravating factors? What were the mitigating factors?
2. If the Young Offenders Act were amended as proposed above would the Act be constitutional or unconstitutional? Are there any Canadian laws which require that sentences over a specific maximum require the possibility of a jury trial? Are jury trials possible under the Young Offenders Act? Could Youth Court sentences be more severe than adult sentences?
3. Would such amendments really make a difference to young persons in terms of general deterrence? What does general deterrence mean? Conduct a survey of students in your school to find out if they think heavy sentences deter crime?
4. Rather than amendments to the Young Offenders Act, propose sentencing guidelines for youth court judges. The provisions of s. 20 are y maximums. In reality it is youth court judges who set the norms for sentencing subject always to appellate review.
Copyright 1996, Stephen R. Biss, Permission to copy and reference is given so long as this line is included.
Stephen R. Biss, Barrister & Solicitor
470 Hensall Circle, Suite 303
905-273-3322 or 1-877-273-3322
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