YOUTH COURT PROCEEDINGS UNDER THE JDA


Section 10 of the JDA provided that the youth court was to be closed to the public, and take place “without publicity and separately and apart from the trials of other accused persons.” Trials were to be held, if possible, in private quarters- in the office of a judge or a room in a municipal building, the courthouse, or within a detention facility. No newspaper or any other media could disclose the name of the juvenile delinquent or his parent without permission of the presiding judge. The intent of section 10 was to ensure that delinquents would not be treated in a manner similar to adult criminals. Informal, private trials were thought to be the most effective mechanism with which to meet the special needs of young offenders.

The JDA allowed for the transfer of an accused youth to adult court if the offence for which he was charged was indictable and the youth was actually or apparently fourteen years of age or older. The decision to transfer a youth was made by the presiding youth court judge who could rescind a transfer order at any time before the proceedings against a youth commenced in adult court. The 1908 legislation failed to set out provisions for the appeal of a decision to transfer a youth to the ordinary court, but in a revision of the Act (the Juvenile Delinquents Act, S.C. 1929, c. 46) section 37 provided that “A Supreme Court judge may, in his discretion, on special grounds, grant special leave to appeal any decision of the youth court,” including a decision to transfer (Jones, 1997). Subsection 37 (2) of the 1929 revision states that the right to appeal a youth court decision would be reserved for exceptional cases for which an appeal would serve the public interest and the due administration of justice. The right to appeal a decision to transfer or any other decision of the youth court was not a universal legal right.

Dispositions set out by the Juvenile Delinquents Act were meant to meet the special needs of delinquent youth. A young person found delinquent could face a range of penalties including a fine of up to ten dollars (in a revision of the JDA, this amount was increased to twenty-five dollars), a suspended sentence, or placement in a foster home. A youth could be committed to “the care or custody of a probation officer or any other suitable person” (Juvenile Delinquents Act, S.C. 1908, c. 40, sec. 16), a children’s aid society, an industrial school, or a reformatory. Any juvenile delinquent, according to subsection 16 (3), whether in custody or at home, would continue to be a ward of the court until the age of twenty-one or until discharged by the court. This provision allowed youth court judges to commit young people to custody indeterminately up to their twenty-first birthday. A youth court judge could also adjourn a hearing at any point for a determinate or indeterminate length of time.


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