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Finding of Guilt After a Guilty Plea or Finding Not Guilty After a Trial in Youth Court under the YCJA

When a young person is brought before a Youth Justice Court in Milton, ON or in any other Canadian YCJA Court, he or she is presumed innocent, the same as an adult brought to Court for a criminal charge. Youth Court Judges sit in a criminal Court where no penalty can be imposed on the young person without a finding of guilt. For that reason juvenile Courts are reluctant to take substantial measures against an adolescent young person to correct behaviour or to impose treatment of any kind without a finding of guilt for a specific criminal offence. If a young person is found guilty of an offence in a Greater Toronto Area Youth Court then he or she can be sentenced to a criminal law punishment that fits the crime. A Youth Court Judge cannot impose a heavy punishment for a minor crime because punishment must always be measured against the offence.


The criminal law cannot be used for child protection or child welfare purposes. Children and their parents who need social work help must find that help outside of the criminal court system.


Before a Court can impose punishment there needs to be a finding of guilt. If the young person pleads guilty then a finding of guilt can be based on that guilty plea and conceded facts read into the record or evidence. If the young person pleads not guilty then the Court must conduct a trial, hear evidence and decide guilt or find that it has a reasonable doubt about guilt. If the Court has a reasonable doubt then the young person is found not guilty and no punishment will be imposed.


Before a Youth Court Judge accepts a guilty plea, he or she must establish that the youth is pleading guilty voluntarily, that the adolescent understands and is giving up his or her right to a trial, and that although the Crown has given the juvenile a "sentencing position", the Judge can impose a higher (or lower) sentence than the lawyers suggest.


A young person, who is contemplating a guilty plea in any Toronto Area Youth Court, needs legal advice from an experienced youth court lawyer before entering such a plea. That legal advice can easily be arranged by a visit to my office at 470 Hensall Circle in Mississauga. I will need to meet primarily with the adolescent, but also with one or more parents.


YCJA Extracts:


Referral to child welfare agency

 In addition to any order that it is authorized to make, a youth justice court may, at any stage of proceedings against a young person, refer the young person to a child welfare agency for assessment to determine whether the young person is in need of child welfare services.


Marginal note:When young person pleads guilty
  •  (1) If a young person pleads guilty to an offence charged against the young person and the youth justice court is satisfied that the facts support the charge, the court shall find the young person guilty of the offence.

  • Marginal note:When young person pleads not guilty

    (2) If a young person charged with an offence pleads not guilty to the offence or pleads guilty but the youth justice court is not satisfied that the facts support the charge, the court shall proceed with the trial and shall, after considering the matter, find the young person guilty or not guilty or make an order dismissing the charge, as the case may be.


  •  (1) The purpose of sentencing under section 42 (youth sentences) is to hold a young person accountable for an offence through the imposition of just sanctions that have meaningful consequences for the young person and that promote his or her rehabilitation and reintegration into society, thereby contributing to the long-term protection of the public.

  • Marginal note:Sentencing principles

    (2) A youth justice court that imposes a youth sentence on a young person shall determine the sentence in accordance with the principles set out in section 3 and the following principles:

    • (a) the sentence must not result in a punishment that is greater than the punishment that would be appropriate for an adult who has been convicted of the same offence committed in similar circumstances;

    • (b) the sentence must be similar to the sentences imposed in the region on similar young persons found guilty of the same offence committed in similar circumstances;

    • (c) the sentence must be proportionate to the seriousness of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the young person for that offence;

    • (d) all available sanctions other than custody that are reasonable in the circumstances should be considered for all young persons, with particular attention to the circumstances of aboriginal young persons;

    • (e) subject to paragraph (c), the sentence must

      • (i) be the least restrictive sentence that is capable of achieving the purpose set out in subsection (1),

      • (ii) be the one that is most likely to rehabilitate the young person and reintegrate him or her into society, and

      • (iii) promote a sense of responsibility in the young person, and an acknowledgement of the harm done to victims and the community; and

    • (f) subject to paragraph (c), the sentence may have the following objectives:

      • (i) to denounce unlawful conduct, and

      • (ii) to deter the young person from committing offences.

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