Understanding Cases of Failure to Comply with A Disposition

Section II: Longitudinal Youth Court Data

Part 3: Understanding the Most Serious Sanction Given for a Failure to Comply Conviction

This section aims to understand the type of sentence given for the failure to comply conviction (see Table 12). Specifically, using multiple regression this next analysis will explore which variables appear to be significant predictors of the type of sentence given for the failure to comply conviction.

Dependant Variable : Most serious sentence for failure to comply conviction

  • 0 = other (3.8%)
  • 1 = CSO (7.8%)
  • 2 = fine (8.2%)
  • 3 = probation (33.2%)
  • 4 = open custody (23.1%)
  • 5 = closed custody (23.9%)

Predictor Variables

(For all scales, the values have been recoded so that higher numbers = more serious offences or more serious sentences)

  • 1) Gender

    • Boys = 1;
    • Girls = 2

  • 2) Most serious conviction ever (Table 16). Scale of 1 to 11.

    • 1:other;
    • 2:YOA offences;
    • 3: administration of justice;
    • 4:drugs;
    • 5:mischief/possession of stolen property;
    • 6:theft under;
    • 7:theft over/other thefts/other property;
    • 8:break and enter;
    • 9:other violence;
    • 10:minor assault
    • 11:attempted murder/sexual assaults/assaults level 2 and 3

  • 3) Most serious, most recent, previous conviction (Table 17). Scale of 1 to 11.

    • 1:other;
    • 2:YOA offences;
    • 3: administration of justice;
    • 4:drugs;
    • 5:mischief/possession of stolen property;
    • 6:theft under;
    • 7:theft over/other thefts/other property;
    • 8:break and enter;
    • 9:other violence;
    • 10:minor assault
    • 11:attempted murder/sexual assaults/assaults level 2 and 3

  • 4) Most serious, most recent, previous sentence (Table 18). Scale of 1 to 6.

    • 1:other;
    • 2:CSO;
    • 3:fine;
    • 4:probation;
    • 5: open custody;
    • 6: secure custody

  • 5) Number of convicted cases preceding FTC case (Table 15). Scale of 1 to 3.

    • 1:one case;
    • 2:two cases;
    • 3: three or more cases

  • 6) Most serious non-FTC conviction within current FTC case (Table 14). Scale of 0 to 10.

    • 0:only FTC convictions within the case;
    • 1:other;
    • 2:administration of justice;
    • 3:drugs;
    • 4:mischief/possession of stolen property;
    • 5:theft under;
    • 6:theft over/other thefts/other property;
    • 7:break and enter;
    • 8:other violence;
    • 9:minor assault
    • 10:attempted murder/sexual assaults/assaults level 2 and 3

  • 7) Number of non-FTC convictions within the case (Table 8). Scale of 0 to 3.

    • 0: only FTC convictions;
    • 1: one non-FTC conviction;
    • 2: two non-FTC convictions;
    • 3: three or more non-FTC convictions.

  • 8) Number of FTC convictions within the case. Scale of 1 to 3.

    • 1: one FTC conviction;
    • 2: two FTC convictions;
    • 3: three or more FTC convictions.

Using multiple regression to examine the effect of each of the nine predictors on the sanction for the FTC conviction, it appears that all of them except for the gender of youth were significant predictors (Table 19). By far the strongest predictor was the most serious, most recent, sentence (#4) – the more severe the previous sentence was, the more severe the current sentence for FTC was. The next two strongest predictors were the number of non-FTC convictions within the case (#7) and the number of FTC convictions within the case (#8). The more non-FTC convictions or the more FTC convictions with the case, the more severe the current sentence was.

The number of convicted cases preceding the FTC case (#5) and the most serious non-FTC conviction within the case (#6) were the next strongest predictors of the current sentence for the FTC conviction (Table 20). The more previous cases the youth had or the more serious the current convictions, the more severe the sentence was for the FTC conviction.

The most serious and most recent conviction was the sixth strongest predictor of the current sentence. The relationship between the most serious, most recent, conviction and the current sentence for the FTC conviction was negative (Table 20). This means that as the most serious, most recent, conviction decreased (towards less serious offences), the more the current sentence increased (towards harsher sanctions). While this may at first seem counter-intuitive, as one might have assumed that judges sentence with proportionality in mind (the more severe a conviction the harsher the sentence), it appears that the negative relationship was due to the predominance of harsher sentences for administration of justice and YOA convictions. If a youth had a conviction for an administration of justice offence or a YOA offence just before the FTC conviction, the sentence for the FTC conviction was considerably harsher. Table 20 gives an example of this relationship. Looking only at cases with one previous case before the current FTC conviction, one can see that administration of justice and YOA offences are most likely to receive custody (Table 21). Roughly 31% of cases with a most recent conviction of a serious violent offence received custody, however, if a youth had a YOA conviction [17] most recently, 47.7% received custody. While the proportion of cases receiving custody ranged from 43% (other violence) to 26% (“other”), the proportion of cases receiving custody was significantly higher for administration of justice (41%: this involved things like failure to appear and unlawfully at large) and YOA offences (47%). This general pattern held when looking at cases with two previous cases or three or more previous cases (Appendix A; Tables A3 and A4).

Generally administration of justice and YOA offences receive similar or significantly harsher, sentences than violence cases. It may be that in the context of the current FTC conviction, judges see a previous administrative offence as significantly more serious than any other type of offence, even serious violence. One may wonder if this sentencing pattern achieves section 38(2)(c) of the YCJA which states that the sentence must be proportionate to the seriousness of the offence and degree of responsibility of the offender. There may be debate around whether an administration of justice offence is more serious than a violent offence.

The weakest predictor was the most serious conviction ever in a youth's history. The more serious that conviction was, the more severe the current sentence for the FTC conviction was. Overall, the seven significant predictors accounted for 20.6% of the variation in the type of sentence given for the FTC conviction.

Table 19: OLS Multiple Regression examining the effect of legal factors on the most serious sentence given for the failure to comply conviction
  Unstandardized Coefficients Standardized Coefficients t Sig.
B Std. Error Beta    
(Constant) 2.219 .075   29.446 .000
1) Gender -.014 .030 -.004 -.569 .639
2) Most serious conviction ever .016 .006 .033 2.761 .006
3) Most serious, most recent conviction -.023 .005 -.056 -4.661 .000
4) Most serious, most recent sentence .272 .011 .233 24.295 .000
5) Number of convicted cases preceding FTC case .131 .017 .086 7.669 .000
6) Most serious non-FTC conviction within the case .039 .005 .102 7.456 .000
7) Number of non-FTC convictions within the case .236 .017 .191 13.725 .000
8) Number of FTC convictions within the case .272 .019 .138 14.557 .000

Dependent Variable: MSD (most serious sentence) for FTC conviction

Model Summary
R R Square Adjusted R Square Std. Error of the Estimate Change Statistics
R Square Change F Change df1 df2 Sig. F Change
.453 .206 .205 1.1954 .206 297.654 8 9202 .000

Table 20: The most serious, most recent conviction and the most serious sentence for the current FTC conviction (Cases that only had one previous case before the FTC conviction)
  Other/fine/CCSO Probation Open/secure custody Total
Other 54
29.0%
83
44.6%
49
26.3%
186
100.0%
YOA offences 15
17.0%
31
35.2%
42
47.7%
88
100.0%
Administration of justice 28
19.3%
58
40.0%
59
40.7%
145
100.0%
Drugs 37
22.5%
90
54.2%
39
23.5%
166
100.0%
Mischief/possession of stolen property 85
22.5%
159
42.2%
133
35.3%
377
100.0%
Theft under 71
19.5%
184
50.4%
110
30.1%
365
100.0%
Theft over/other thefts/other property 65
21.6%
137
45.5%
99
32.9%
301
100.0%
B&E 111
23.6%
198
42.0%
162
34.4%
471
100.0%
Other violence (threats mainly) 27
13.7%
86
43.7%
84
42.6%
197
100.0%
Minor assault 90
17.9%
240
47.7%
173
34.4%
503
100.0%
Attempt murder, robbery, sexual assault, assault 2/3 85
22.3%
179
47.0%
117
30.7%
381
100.0%
Total 668
21.0%
1445
45.4%
1067
33.6%
3180
100.0%

Chi-square = 50.44, df=20, p<.001

The finding that, by far, the strongest predictor was the type of sentence handed down most recently (predictor #4), is similar to what others have found. For example, Matarazzo, Carrington, and Hiscott's (2002) study [18] investigating predictors of youth court sentences demonstrated that judges not only take the previous history of offending into account, but they also take the previous sentences into account when handing down sentences. In effect, a sentence M“steps up” from the previous sentence. Thus, under the Young Offenders Act , judges appeared to hold this “step” theory of sentencing: sentences tended to be made more severe than the previous sentence regardless of what the youth was being sentenced for. The results presented here further confirm that finding – the most significant predictor was not what the youth had done, but rather how the judge had sentenced the youth most recently. If this sentencing pattern exists under the YCJA, it could conflict with Section 38 of the YCJA which states that the sentence must reflect the seriousness of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender. In addition, given the judicial focus on the previous sentence in crafting the current sentence, the relatively high use of custody for these relatively minor offences is clearly problematic. It means that youths who receive custody for a simple FTC conviction are likely to receive custody again if they ever come back into the youth justice system, no matter how minor the offence is.


  • [17] “YOA” offences include sections 7.2 (failure to comply with an undertaking), 26 (failure to comply with a disposition), 47 (contempt of court) and 50 (assist/interfere). While the majority of offences are typically s.26 (failing to comply with a disposition) – in this context, with only one previous conviction, this category instead include some combination of sections 7.2, 47 and 50. The last year (1999-2000) that CCJS published these offences separately, instead of grouping them all into “YOA offences”, suggests that the vast majority are “failing to comply with a disposition”, followed by “failing to comply with an undertaking”. Thus, in this context, with only one previous conviction, it is likely that the majority are “failing to comply with an undertaking”.
  • [18] Matarazzo, A., Carrington, P.J. and Hiscott, D.R (2002). The Effect of Prior Youth Court Dispositions on Current Disposition: An Application of Societal-Reaction Theory. Journal of Quantitative Criminology, 17, 169-200.

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