Youth Court Judges' Views of the Youth Justice system: The results of a survey

Detention before trial

The "responsible person" provision of the YOA (S. 7.1) indicates that a youth who otherwise would be detained prior to trial can be released to the care of a "responsible person" if the judge deems it appropriate. In the period leading up to the introduction of the YCJA, some concern was expressed that this section was rarely invoked, at least in some locations. Hence, the YCJA requires that the judge enquire as to the availability of a responsible person with whom the youth might reside. It would appear that the invocation of this section varies enormously across judges, and, to some extent, across provinces. British Columbia judges were most likely to indicate that this possibility is raised regularly in court. [17]

Proportion of detention cases where "responsible person" raised in court
  Proportion of detention cases, responsible person raised in court Total
All, almost all Most About half A few Almost none, none
Region Atlantic Count Row percents 1
3.3 %
7
23.3 %
4
13.3 %
11
36.7 %
7
23.3 %
30
100 %
Quebec Count Row percents 1
4.2 %
6
25 %
7
29.2 %
6
25 %
4
16.7 %
24
100 %
Ontario Count Row percents 7
13.7 %
6
11.8 %
6
11.8 %
11
21.6 %
21
41.2 %
51
100 %
Prairies Count Row percents 6
11.1 %
9
16.7 %
9
16.7 %
14
25.9 %
16
29.6 %
54
100 %
BC Count Row percents 11
20.8 %
13
24.5 %
15
28.3 %
10
18.9 %
4
7.5 %
53
100 %
Territories Count Row percents   1
25 %
1
25 %
2
50 %
  4
100 %
Total Count Row percents 26
12 %
42
19.4 %
42
19.4 %
54
25 %
52
24.1 %
216
100 %

Treating the responses as a "scale" going from 1 (almost none, or none) to 5 (all, or almost all), there was a significant effect of region (including or excluding the territories). The issue of finding a "responsible person" was raised more often in B.C. than elsewhere.

Raising of "responsible person"

F(5,210) = 3.47, p<.01; without the territories F(4, 207) = 4.31, p <.01

Description

In explaining why this section was rarely raised, one judge noted that "the kids who are detained are 'out of control' of their parents and/or child protection agencies." Another commented that instead of invoking this section, the parent would be named as a surety. This judge pointed out that "withdrawing" as a surety was easier than changing the status of a 7.1 order. On the other hand, a number of judges indicated that bail hearings were typically heard by justices of the peace rather than judges. As a result, they did not have much information about them.

The detention decision is formally governed, in large part, by the principles laid out in the Criminal Code. Nevertheless, it would appear that judges, when faced with troubled youth, are often responding to the needs of the youth. The proposed YCJA has an explicit provision allowing the judge to refer the case to child welfare authorities at any stage of the proceedings. It would appear that at the "detention" stage, such a reference might frequently be useful since many judges, in all regions of Canada, indicate that a substantial portion of youths are being detained where "the detention [was] only because the young person had no adequate place to stay, or for some other child welfare reason." [18] The portion of youths being reported as having been detained for this reason in Quebec was lower, presumably because such youths had already been diverted from the youth justice stream into the child welfare system.

Proportion of cases where detention necessary for welfare reasons
  What proportion: detention necessary for welfare purposes only Total
Half or more few Almost none, none
Region Atlantic

Count
Row percents

7
23.3 %
13
43.3 %
10
33.3 %
30
100 %
Quebec

Count
Row percents

2
8.3 %
12
50 %
10
41.7 %
24
100 %
Ontario

Count
Row percents

19
33.3 %
23
40.4 %
15
26.3 %
57
100 %
Prairies

Count
Row percents

24
44.4 %
15
27.8 %
15
27.8 %
54
100 %
BC

Count
Row percents

13
25 %
25
48.1 %
14
26.9 %
52
100 %
Territories

Count
Row percents

2
50 %
2
50 %
  4
100 %
Total

Count
Row percents

67
30.3 %
90
40.7 %
64
29 %
221
100 %

Note: Excluding the territories, Chi-square = 13.82, df=8, p=.09, not significant.

Proportion of cases where detention necessary for welfare reasons
  What proportion: detention necessary for welfare purposes only    Total
Half or more Few Almost None, None
Quebec compared to Rest of Canada Quebec

Count
Row percents

2
8.3 %
12
50 %
10
41.7 %
24
100 %
Rest of Canada

Count
Row percents

65
33 %
78
39.6 %
54
27.4 %
197
100 %
Total

Count
Row percents

67
30.3 %
90
40.7 %
64
29.0 %
221
100 %

Chi square = 6.36, df=2, p<.05


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