Before accepting a plea of guilty or not guilty, the judge has to be sure that the youth understands the charge. If the judge is not convinced that the young person understands the charge, the judge cannot allow the youth to plead guilty.
If a “guilty” plea is entered and the youth justice court judge is satisfied that the facts presented by the crown prosecutor support the charge laid by the police, a finding of guilt is entered. A sentence can be given right away. Alternatively, the case may be put over to another day so that a pre-sentence report can be prepared by a probation officer. A pre-sentence report must be done before any custody and supervision sentence is given, but is optional if the judge is considering other sentences. See the Sentences section on page 22 for more information on pre-sentence reports.
If a “not guilty” plea is entered, there will be an adjournment of the court and a date for a trial will be set. Adjournment means that a case is ended for that day.
A trial is when the court does a formal examination of all the evidence to decide if the accused is guilty or not guilty of the charge(s) laid. At the trial, the crown prosecutor and the defence counsel who is representing the young person (if the young person has counsel) present their evidence and call witnesses. The judge then makes a decision based on what has been presented.
There is no jury in youth justice court UNLESS a youth is charged with first or second degree murder or could receive an adult sentence. Youth who may receive adult sentences or who are under the age of 14 and have been charged with first or second degree murder are the only ones to have the choice of whether they want to have a jury (section 67 (1)). Please see the Adult Sentencing section on page 34 for more information.
If the young person is found not guilty, he or she will receive an acquittal. This means the case is over and the young person is free to leave. Any records about the case will be destroyed or sealed after a specified period of time. See the Youth Record section on page 45 for more information.
If the judge finds the youth guilty, a pre-sentence report may be ordered or the judge may decide to sentence the youth without it. See the Sentences section on page 22 for what follows next.
Cases are heard in youth justice court. Youth justice court is open to the public and members of the news media. However, in most cases, the media are not allowed to publish or broadcast any information that may identify any youth involved in the case.