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

Judges' evaluations of other court professionals

Generally speaking, the majority of judges thought that most Crown and defence counsel were well prepared for the case and well informed about the youth justice system [19]. However, judges were more likely to indicate that Crown attorneys were well prepared than defence counsel [20]. In addition, most judges were satisfied with most of the joint submissions that they received [21]. A majority of judges indicated that most submissions on sentences were helpful [22]. In response to these questions, judges noted that a dedicated group of defence and Crown counsel existed in some locations. Because of this characterization, this group was perceived as appearing to know what they were doing. In contrast, other judges observed that counsel were simply occasional visitors to youth court who were, as one judge commented, "ill-prepared, lazy, or inexperienced and hence useless." Unfortunately, we did not systematically gather information on whether there was an experienced and active group of defence and Crown counsel in youth court. Consequently, we cannot comment on whether, in general, frequent visitors to the court were seen, by judges, as doing a better job than infrequent users.

Interestingly, regional differences existed on the judges' ratings of the preparedness of counsel (defence and Crown) and the submissions on sentence by defence counsel. No regional differences existed with respect to the ratings of the quality of the joint submissions, the sentence submissions by the Crown, and the quality of the predisposition reports. [23]

As can be seen in the following two tables, Crown and defence counsel in the prairie provinces and in Quebec were rated by the judges as being the most likely to be prepared and well informed about the YOA. Crown and defence counsel were rated least favourably on these dimensions by Ontario judges.

Proportion of defence counsel well prepared
All, almost all Most Half or fewer Total
Region Atlantic

Count
Row percent

5
16.7 %
19
63.3 %
6
20 %
30
100 %
Quebec

Count
Row percent

7
29.2 %
16
66.7 %
1
4.2 %
24
100 %
Ontario

Count
Row percent

10
14.7 %
28
41.2 %
30
44.1 %
68
100 %
Prairies

Count
Row percent

26
47.3 %
23
41.8 %
6
10.9 %
55
100 %
BC

Count
Row percent

9
17 %
28
52.8 %
16
30.2 %
53
100 %
Territories

Count
Row percent

    4
100 %
4
100 %
Total

Count
Row percent

57
24.4 %
114
48.7 %
63
26.9 %
234
100 %

Excluding the territories, Chi-square = 39.43, df=8, p<.01.

Proportion of cases where Crown attorney is well prepared
All, almost all Most Half or fewer Total
Region Atlantic

Count
Row percent

9
30 %
17
56.7 %
4
13.3 %
30
100 %
Quebec

Count
Row percent

13
54.2 %
10
41.7 %
1
4.2 %
24
100 %
Ontario

Count
Row percent

14
20.6 %
35
51.5 %
19
27.9 %
68
100 %
Prairies

Count
Row percent

26
47.3 %
23
41.8 %
6
10.9 %
55
100 %
BC

Count
Row percent

14
26.4 %
34
64.2 %
5
9.4 %
53
100 %
Territories

Count
Row percent

    4
100 %
4
100 %
Total

Count
Row percent

76
32.5 %
119
50.9 %
39
16.7 %
234
100 %

Excluding the territories, Chi-square = 24.90, df=8, p<.01, 2 expected values <5, minimum=3.65

Proportion of cases with joint submission where judge is satisfied with the joint submission
All, almost all Most Half or fewer Total
Region Atlantic

Count
Row percent

11
36.7 %
17
56.7 %
2
6.7 %
30
100 %
Quebec

Count
Row percent

4
16.7 %
17
70.8 %
3
12.5 %
24
100 %
Ontario

Count
Row percent

8
11.8 %
46
67.6 %
14
20.6 %
68
100 %
Prairies

Count
Row percent

17
31.5 %
27
50 %
10
18.5 %
54
100 %
BC

Count
Row percent

9
17 %
34
64.2 %
10
18.9 %
53
100 %
Territories

Count
Row percent

    4
100 %
4
100 %
Total

Count
Row percent

49
21 %
141
60.5 %
43
18.5 %
233
100 %

Excluding the territories, Chi-square = 14.47, df=8, n.s. (1 expected value of 4.09) [24]

When judges were asked, more specifically, about sentence submissions from Crown and defence counsel, a somewhat different pattern emerged. Sentence submissions from both lawyers had the highest likelihood as being rated as useful most often in Ontario and the prairies.

Proportion of sentence submissions by the defence that are helpful
All, almost all Most Half or fewer Total
Region Atlantic

Count
Row percent

2
6.7 %
13
43.3 %
15
50 %
30
100 %
Quebec

Count
Row percent

2
8.3 %
6
25 %
16
66.7 %
24
100 %
Ontario

Count
Row percent

17
25 %
30
44.1 %
21
30.9 %
68
100 %
Prairies

Count
Row percent

16
29.1 %
26
47.3 %
13
23.6 %
55
100 %
BC

Count
Row percent

5
9.6 %
27
51.9 %
20
38.5 %
52
100 %
Territories

Count
Row percent

  2
50 %
2
50 %
4
100 %
Total

Count
Row percent

42
18 %
104
44.6 %
87
37.3 %
233
100 %

Eliminating the territories, Chi-square = 24.02, df=8, p<.01 (1 expected value <5 = 4.40)

Proportion of sentence submissions by Crown that are helpful
All, almost all Most Half or fewer Total
Region Atlantic

Count
% within Region

2
6.7 %
15
50 %
13
43.3 %
30
100 %
Quebec

Count
% within Region

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

Count
% within Region

15
22.1 %
21
30.9 %
32
47.1 %
68
100 %
Prairies

Count
% within Region

13
23.6 %
24
43.6 %
18
32.7 %
55
100 %
BC

Count
% within Region

3
5.7 %
27
50.9 %
23
43.4 %
53
100 %
Territories

Count
% within Region

  1
25 %
3
75 %
4
100 %
Total

Count
% within Region

35
15 %
98
41.9 %
101
43.2 %
234
100 %

Excluding the territories, Chi-square = 15.41, df=8, n.s. (2 Es <5, minimum=3.65)

As shown in the next table, predisposition reports were generally seen as helpful by most judges in all regions of Canada.

Proportion of predisposition reports that are helpful
All, almost all Most Half or fewer Total
Region Atlantic

Count
Row percent

14
46.7 %
13
43.3 %
3
10 %
30
100 %
Quebec

Count
Row percent

18
75 %
5
20.8 %
1
4.2 %
24
100 %
Ontario

Count
Row percent

30
44.1 %
31
45.6 %
7
10.3 %
68
100 %
Prairies

Count
Row percent

30
54.5 %
20
36.4 %
5
9.1 %
55
100 %
BC

Count
Row percent

27
50.9 %
22
41.5 %
4
7.5 %
53
100 %
Territories

Count
Row percent

3
75 %
1
25 %
  4
100 %
Total

Count
Row percent

122
52.1 %
92
39.3 %
20
8.5 %
234
100 %

Eliminating territories, Chi-square = 7.48, df=8, n.s.


  • [19] Questions C1 and C2.
  • [20] Treating the responses as a 5-point scale in which 1=all/almost all were well prepared and 5 = almost none/none were well prepared, the mean for defence was 2.11 and the mean for Crown was 1.91 (t(237)=4.29, p <.001). The difference between the ratings of Crown and defence with regard to the quality of their sentence submissions was not significant.
  • [21] Question E2
  • [22]Questions E3 and E4.
  • [23] In addition to the cross-tabulations presented in the text, analyses of variances (treating the responses as a 5-point scale - see previous footnote) were performed on the original scale and the collapsed scale (collapsing the categories "about half", "a few" and "almost none/none"). Analyses were run with both the inclusion and exclusion of the territories. The results were the same as noted in the text.
  • [24] "Expected values" (the number of cases in a cell that one would expect if no relationship existed between the two variables in tables such as this one) should be at least 5 in order that the chi-square give an accurate estimate of the significance of the relationship. Smaller expected values tend to inflate the value of the chi-square and, as such, make something appear significant when it is not. Minor variations from this rule of thumb regarding a minimum value of 5 do not make a great deal of difference if the chi-square is large. Nevertheless, I have included notes on small estimated values as a warning to readers. In the cases in which I was concerned that the value of the chi-square did not accurately reflect the significance of the in which I was concerned that the value of the chi-square did not accurately reflect the significance of the finding, I have either collapsed rows or columns, or eliminated certain groups (e.g., the territories from most jurisdictional comparisons).
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