These facts are contrary to the belief of the general public, fuelled by the news media, that youths are coddled by the youth justice system. The public must be made aware of the role that sensationalism plays in the reporting of criminal events. In recent years, perhaps due to increased competition or to the voracious appetite of the public for shocking stories, the news has become less a source of information and more a source of entertainment. The extensive coverage of the Columbine School massacre garnered significantly more media attention than the war in Yugoslavia or any other current events for weeks afterward. The North American public was enthralled by the story because it seemed to be a ?sign of the times,’ while the events in Yugoslavia were simply the outcomes of war, and so were of less concern. The media chose to focus on Columbine because the public wanted to know about it and the wider an audience a newspaper or television news program attracts, the greater the advertising dollars it can demand. The media sensationalise youth crime stories because the public is interested in hearing and reading about violent crimes, and with each additional incident of youth violence reported in the media, the public’s concern with youth crime is heightened. This leads to an exaggerated perception of the prevalence of youth crime and a belief, based on faulty premises, that youth crime is on the rise. With the wide exposure that the Canadian public has to the American media, Canadians’ attitudes toward youth crime are undoubtedly influenced by events like the Columbine massacre, and even though this particular crime occurred in the United States, it has heightened fears of similar crimes within Canadian communities.

Despite that the Canadian public has remained unaware that youth crime has been decreasing and that youths are, under the YOA, treated more punitively than adults, Parliament has taken notice and has introduced the Youth Criminal Justice Act in an effort to reduce the prevalence of incarceration for young offenders. Under the YCJA, only violent young people and those who are serious recidivists will be subject to incarceration, and the vast majority of young people, who do not fall into either category, will be removed from the formal justice process. In sentencing, it is likely that deterrence and denunciation will not be considerations in lesser offences as they had been under the YOA, because the YCJA unequivocally states that the least restrictive measures must be used when dealing with young people - deterrence and denunciation lead inevitably to a more severe punishment than warranted by the offence. A youth’s right to the least possible interference with his freedom was also provided by the YOA, however, that Act’s Declaration of Principles was sufficiently vague to allow many considerations into the judicial decision making process. The YCJA has clear statements of principle not only for the entire Act, but for sentencing and custody as well. It is likely then, given the Act’s strong focus on reducing the prevalence of custody for young people and its clearly defined principles, that young people will no longer be incarcerated to denounce their criminal acts or to deter them or others from similar behaviours. It is unclear if child-welfare concerns will continue to be a rationale for sentencing youths to custody, but again, it is likely that the youth court will opt to provide a sentence that is proportionate to the offence committed, and let child-welfare authorities deal with the youth after he or she is released.

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