The protection of society is addressed in section 3.(1)(b) which states that “society must, although it has the responsibility to take reasonable measures to prevent criminal conduct by young persons, be afforded the necessary protection from illegal behaviour.” The Young Offenders Act was intended to aid in the protection of society by working towards the rehabilitation of youths while removing dangerous youths from the community (Hak, 1996). After an amendment to the YOA in 1995, subsection 3.(1)(c.1) states that

the protection of society, which is a primary objective of the criminal law applicable to youth, is best served by rehabilitation, wherever possible, of young persons who commit offences, and rehabilitation is best achieved by addressing the needs of a young person that are relevant to his offending behaviour.

Here, it is apparent that the principles of special needs and the protection of society, while seemingly incompatible, are in fact, positively associated: if the special needs of youths are adequately met by the juvenile justice system, society will benefit from a reduction in criminality among young people.

A third guiding principle of the Young Offenders Act is that young people ought to be afforded the same legal protections as adult criminals. It was recognized that if we were going to criminalize young people, we were required to also ensure their legal rights were protected. The due process rights of young offenders are set out in the YOA’s Declaration of Principle in subsections (e), (f), and (g). According to subsections 3.(1)(e) and (f), youths have “...a right to be heard in the course of, and participate in, the processes that lead to decisions that affect them, and that young people should have special guarantees of their rights and freedoms” which “include a right to the least possible interference with freedom that is consistent with the protection of society...” Under the YOA, young offenders are granted the right to give full answer and defence in court, and any disposition given must not deprive a young offender of his freedom for an inappropriate length of time. The need for treatment is not sufficient justification for a long period of custody as it had been under the JDA. Youths found guilty of minor offences, prior to the enactment of the YOA, could be placed in a training school for an indefinite period until the youth reached the age of twenty-one in cases where the court found the youth to be in need of special care and guidance (Leschied & Jaffe, 1995).

Another noteworthy legal right of youths can be found in subsection 3.(1)(g)of the Young Offenders Act, which reads: “young persons have the right, in every instance where they have rights or freedoms that may be affected by this Act, to be informed as to what those rights and freedoms are...” This statement of principle effectively put a check on the police and other authority figures who have the power to intimidate adolescents into giving self-incriminating or false statements. The legal rights of young people, those included in both the YOA’s Declaration of Principle and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, are particularly important in the arrest and interrogation of youths.


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