Youth court statistics in Canada, 2014/2015

by Zoran Miladinovic

In Canada, youth aged 12 to 17 years accused of a crime are processed through youth courts.Note 1 Youth courts operate under the provisions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) separate from adult criminal courts. The YCJA preamble contains significant statements from Parliament about the values upon which the legislation is based. One of these statements mentions that accurate information about youth crime, the youth justice system, and effective measures should be publicly available (Department of Justice Canada 2013). Statistics from court administrative databases represent a useful information source in monitoring the effectiveness of the youth court system.

Using data from the Integrated Criminal Court Survey (ICCS), this article presents information on youth court cases completed in Canada in 2014/2015. It highlights key youth court indicators such as the number of completed charges and cases, case decisions, sentencing outcomes, and case processing times. This article also presents trends over time and some characteristics of youth who appear in court.

Completed youth court cases in 2014/2015 at a glance

Flow Chart

Description for Youth court statistics in Canada, 2014/2015

Note: For youth sentences, the Youth Criminal Justice Act stipulates a maximum fine of $1,000.
Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Integrated Criminal Court Survey.

Decrease in completed cases in youth court in 2014/2015

Chart 1

Description for Chart 1
Data table for chart 1
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 1. The information is grouped by Year (appearing as row headers), Number of cases (appearing as column headers).
Year Number of cases
1991/1992 94,728
1992/1993 90,561
1993/1994 90,333
1994/1995 86,044
1995/1996 85,882
1996/1997 85,634
1997/1998 86,904
1998/1999 82,578
1999/2000 77,969
2000/2001 77,859
2001/2002 77,869
2002/2003 76,204
2003/2004 64,029
2004/2005 57,675
2005/2006 57,467
2006/2007 57,482
2007/2008 58,710
2008/2009 58,968
2009/2010 56,859
2010/2011 53,494
2011/2012 48,952
2012/2013 45,441
2013/2014 40,374
2014/2015 32,835

Almost all types of completed youth court cases decreased in 2014/2015

Chart 2

Description for Chart 2
Data table for chart 2
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 2. The information is grouped by Type of cases (appearing as row headers), Percent of total cases (appearing as column headers).
Type of cases Percent of total cases
Robbery 4.4
Uttering threats 5.3
Drug possession 5.4
Possess stolen property 5.7
Major assaultChart 2 Note 2 6.3
Mischief 6.4
Fail to comply with order 7.0
Break and enter 7.7
Common assault 8.4
TheftChart 2 Note 1 10.9

Three-quarters of accused in youth court cases are male

Chart 3

Description for Chart 3
Data table for chart 3
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 3. The information is grouped by Age group (years) (appearing as row headers), Male accused, Female accused and Total, calculated using number of cases units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Age group (years) Male accused Female accused Total
number of cases
12 to 15 years of age 7,980 2,626 10,606
16 to 17 years of age 13,827 3,717 17,544

More than half of completed youth cases result in guilty finding

Chart 4

Description for Chart 4
Data table for chart 4
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 4. The information is grouped by Years (appearing as row headers), Stayed, Withdrawn, Guilty and Acquitted, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Years Stayed Withdrawn Guilty Acquitted
percent
1991/1992 7.0 26.0 65.3 1.5
1992/1993 6.7 23.1 68.3 1.6
1993/1994 6.2 23.2 68.7 1.6
1994/1995 6.9 22.5 68.6 1.7
1995/1996 11.5 20.0 66.7 1.5
1996/1997 10.7 19.1 68.4 1.6
1997/1998 11.1 19.1 67.9 1.6
1998/1999 9.6 18.9 69.8 1.4
1999/2000 9.8 19.4 69.0 1.3
2000/2001 10.1 20.6 67.4 1.4
2001/2002 10.4 22.1 65.8 1.3
2002/2003 10.6 23.2 64.5 1.3
2003/2004 12.3 24.5 61.4 1.4
2004/2005 11.9 23.7 62.3 1.5
2005/2006 15.5 20.5 62.0 1.4
2006/2007 15.9 21.4 60.8 1.3
2007/2008 17.1 21.2 59.9 1.2
2008/2009 18.5 20.6 59.1 1.1
2009/2010 19.4 20.9 57.7 1.2
2010/2011 21.6 20.1 56.5 1.2
2011/2012 20.7 20.8 56.6 1.4
2012/2013 21.3 19.5 57.4 1.3
2013/2014 21.3 20.2 56.4 1.7
2014/2015 20.5 20.6 57.0 1.4

Chart 5

Description for Chart 5
Data table for chart 5
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 5. The information is grouped by Province and territory
(appearing as row headers), Percent of total cases (appearing as column headers).
Province and territory
Percent of total cases
Nunavut 61.7
Northwest Territories 64.3
Yukon 39.7
British Columbia 69.6
Alberta 57.1
Saskatchewan 55.3
Manitoba 72.9
Ontario 44.1
Quebec 66.5
New Brunswick 78.6
Nova Scotia 58.6
Prince Edward Island 68.2
Newfoundland and Labrador 67.7
Canada 57.0

About one in seven guilty youth court cases received a custodial sentence

Chart 6

Description for Chart 6
Data table for chart 6
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 6. The information is grouped by Length of custody sentence (appearing as row headers), Percent of cases sentenced to custody (appearing as column headers).
Length of custody sentenceChart 6 Note 1 Percent of cases sentenced to custody
1 month or less 44.1
Greater than 1 month to 3 months 26.6
Greater than 3 months to 6 months 19.1
Greater than 6 months to 12 months 7.9
Greater than 12 months to less than 2 years 1.8
2 years or more 0.4

Chart 7

Description for Chart 7
Data table for chart 7
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 7. The information is grouped by Province and territory
(appearing as row headers), Percent of guilty cases (appearing as column headers).
Province and territory
Percent of guilty cases
Nunavut 10.3
Northwest Territories 13.0
Yukon 48.0
British Columbia 18.1
Alberta 16.6
Saskatchewan 14.1
Manitoba 13.5
Ontario 19.0
Quebec 9.3
New Brunswick 14.6
Nova Scotia 14.4
Prince Edward Island 25.7
Newfoundland and Labrador 10.4
Canada 14.9

Chart 8

Description for Chart 8
Data table for chart 8
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 8. The information is grouped by Years (appearing as row headers), Custody and Deferred custody and supervision, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Years Custody Deferred custody and supervisionChart 8 Note 1
percent
1991/1992 24.3  
1992/1993 25.7  
1993/1994 27.5  
1994/1995 28.6  
1995/1996 27.7  
1996/1997 27.8  
1997/1998 29.4  
1998/1999 29.2  
1999/2000 28.2  
2000/2001 28.7  
2001/2002 27.1  
2002/2003 26.9  
2003/2004 21.9 1.5
2004/2005 21.1 3.3
2005/2006 18.4 3.8
2006/2007 16.6 3.5
2007/2008 15.9 4.0
2008/2009 15.4 4.2
2009/2010 14.8 5.0
2010/2011 15.6 5.2
2011/2012 15.2 5.1
2012/2013 14.9 5.1
2013/2014 14.9 5.2
2014/2015 14.9 4.5

Probation remains the most common sentence imposed in youth court

Chart 9

Description for Chart 9
Data table for Chart 9
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 9. The information is grouped by Type of sentence (appearing as row headers), Percent of guilty cases (appearing as column headers).
Type of sentence Percent of guilty cases
Probation 57.0
Community service 24.5
Custody 14.9
Conditional discharge 13.7
Deferred custody and supervision 4.1
Reprimand 3.0
Fine 2.8
OtherChart 9 Note 1 21.7

One quarter of youth court cases received a community service order

Half of all youth court cases are completed within 3 months or less

Chart 10

Description for Chart 10
Data table for Chart 10
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 10. The information is grouped by Province and territory
(appearing as row headers), Median length of cases (days) (appearing as column headers).
Province and territory
Median length of cases (days)
Nunavut 72
Northwest Territories 68
Yukon 129
British Columbia 117
Alberta 125
Saskatchewan 64
Manitoba 141
Ontario 122
Quebec 141
New Brunswick 79
Nova Scotia 127
Prince Edward Island 29
Newfoundland and Labrador 163
Canada 120

Survey description

The Integrated Criminal Court Survey (ICCS) is administered by the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics (Statistics Canada) in collaboration with provincial and territorial government departments responsible for criminal courts in Canada. The survey collects statistical information on adult and youth court cases involving Criminal Code and other federal statute charges. Data contained in this article represent the youth court portion of the survey. The individuals involved are persons aged 12 to 17 years (up to the 18th birthday) at the time of the offence. All youth courts in Canada have reported data to the youth component of the survey since the 1991/1992 fiscal year.

The primary unit of analysis is a case. A case is defined as one or more charges against an accused person or company that were processed by the courts at the same time and received a final decision. A case combines all charges against the same person having one or more key overlapping dates (date of offence, date of initiation, date of first appearance, date of decision, or date of sentencing) into a single case.

A case that has more than one charge is represented by the charge with the "most serious offence" (MSO). The most serious offence is selected using the following rules. First, court decisions are considered and the charge with the “most serious decision” (MSD) is selected. Court decisions for each charge in a case are ranked from most to least serious as follows: 1) guilty, 2) guilty of a lesser offence, 3) acquitted, 4) stay of proceeding, 5) withdrawn, dismissed and discharged, 6) not criminally responsible, 7) other, and 8) transfer of court jurisdiction.

Second, in cases where two or more charges result in the same MSD (e.g., guilty), Criminal Code sentences are considered. The charge with the most serious offence type is selected according to an offence seriousness scale, based on actual sentences handed down by courts in Canada.Note 19 Each offence type is ranked by looking at (a) the proportion of guilty charges where custody was imposed and (b) the average (mean) length of custody for the specific type of offence. These values are multiplied together to arrive at the final seriousness ranking for each type of offence. If, after looking at the offence seriousness scale, two or more charges remain tied then information about the sentence type and duration of the sentence are considered (e.g., custody and length of custody, then probation and length of probation, etc.).

Cases are counted according to the fiscal year in which they are completed. Each year, the ICCS database is considered final at the end of March for the production of court statistics pertaining to the preceding fiscal year. However, these counts do not include cases that were pending an outcome at the end of the reference period. If a pending outcome is reached in the next fiscal year, then these cases are included in the completed case counts for that fiscal year. However, if a one-year period of inactivity elapses, then these cases are deemed complete and the originally published counts for the previous fiscal year are subsequently updated and reported in the next year’s release of the data. Historically, updates to a previous year’s counts have resulted in an increase of about 2%.

Detailed data tables

Table 1 Charges and cases completed in youth court, Canada, 2005/2006 to 2014/2015

Table 2 Cases completed in youth court, by province and territory, 2013/2014 and 2014/2015

Table 3 Cases completed in youth court, by type of offence, Canada, 2013/2014 and 2014/2015

Table 4 Cases completed in youth court, by type of offence, age group, and sex of the accused, Canada, 2014/2015

Table 5 Cases completed in youth court, by type of offence and decision, Canada, 2014/2015

Table 6 Guilty cases completed in youth court, by type of offence and selected sentence, Canada, 2014/2015

References

Allen, M. and T. Superle. 2016. “Youth crime in Canada, 2014.” Juristat. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 85-002-X.

Bala, N. 2003. Youth Criminal Justice Law. Toronto. Irwin Law. p. 431.

Department of Justice Canada. 2013. The Youth Criminal Justice Act: Summary and Background. Ottawa. (accessed May 19, 2016).

Youth Criminal Justice Act, S.C. 2002, c.1.

Notes

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