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How does sentencing work in youth criminal court?

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How does sentencing work in youth criminal court?
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Justice for Children and Youth
Department of Justice
Justice for Children and Youth
Ontario Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services

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How does sentencing work in youth criminal court?
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Reviewed: 
April 7, 2020
Answer

After you're found guilty, the judge will decide what sentence is appropriate at a sentencing hearing. The hearing can happen:

  • on the day you plead guilty
  • at the end of your trial
  • on a later day scheduled by the judge

Sentencing for youth is different than for adults. In youth sentencing, the judge:

  • must follow youth sentencing principles
  • must give your parents a chance to speak if they want to say anything
  • can arrange youth justice conferences to discuss your sentence with others, such as the police, the victim, your parents, your teachers, or community leaders
  • can order medical or psychological reports about you

Jail is always the last option in youth court. But all youth sentences include a police record.

There are some sentences available for youth that are not available for adults.

The judge will decide your youth sentence by:

  • following youth sentencing principles
  • listening to the arguments made by your lawyer and the Crown
  • listening to you if you want to say anything
  • listening to your parents if they want to say anything
  • reviewing any documents or information you or the Crown provided, such as letters of support or a victim impact statement
  • reviewing any reports, such as a pre-sentence report or medical/psychological report
  • reviewing any recommendations from a case conference

If you need more time to prepare for your sentencing hearing, you can ask the judge to postpone the hearing. This is called asking for an "adjournment".

Getting a lawyer

Youth sentencing can be complicated and in some cases you can get a criminal record that lasts your entire life. It's best to get help from a lawyer experienced in youth criminal justice. You may qualify for a legal aid certificate for a free lawyer.

If you don't get a certificate, you can ask the judge to order Legal Aid Ontario to give you a lawyer. This is called a Section 25 order. In certain situations, including at a bail hearing or at a trial, the law says that a judge must make a Section 25 order if you want a lawyer but can't get one on your own. Once you ask the judge for a lawyer, they must consider your request. The judge usually gives you their decision right away.

You can also contact Justice for Children and Youth for help with your youth criminal case.

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