Denunciation is another consideration that has come to the forefront of sentencing in youth court. Under the JDA, the court did not use custody to denounce an act. That is, it did not use a custodial disposition to express its disapproval of a delinquent act because children’s special needs were primary. Section 31 provided that “every juvenile delinquent shall be treated, not as a criminal, but as a misdirected and misguided child, and one needing aid, encouragement, help and assistance” (Juvenile Delinquents Act, S.C. 1908, c. 40). In essence, the use of denunciation in sentencing would be contrary to the purpose of the legislation. Because the YOA’s Declaration of Principles were vague and presented competing values, denunciation was allowed to become a legitimate factor for consideration in the sentencing of youths, and has (like the previously mentioned principles of general and specific deterrence and child-welfare considerations), contributed to an increased use of custody for young offenders since 1984.

In the case R. v. H. (S.R.), it was decided that secure custody can be imposed for purposes other than the protection of the public, including “the expression of society’s abhorrence of certain crimes” (cited in Marinos, 1998, p. 373). Denunciation is held by many judges to be an important consideration when sentencing serious and violent young offenders, but also frequently comes into play with less serious offences. In cases with a lower degree of seriousness, short sharp shock custodial sentences are often seen to be sufficient to express society’s condemnation, while probation or fines would fall short of this goal, and are often applied in conjunction with short periods of custody (Marinos, 1998). Because denunciation of crime requires custodial sanctions for a large number of offences, we can see how its incorporation into the judicial decision making process in the youth court has led to an increase in the proportion of youths sentenced to custody and a decrease in custodial sentence length for youths since the introduction of the YOA.


Bill C-68, the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) recently passed its first reading in the House of Commons in March of 1999. Following a second reading, the Act will be subject to hearings of the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs. It must then receive a third reading in Parliament before proceeding to the Senate. If the Act passes, it will require Royal Assent before becoming law. Implementation of the Youth Criminal Justice Act could begin in 2001, if no major roadblocks to its passage arise. In the years to follow, we shall see if the YCJA will have had any effect on the frequency of custodial dispositions in the youth court.

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