A young person has the right, at any stage of the youth justice process, to talk to a lawyer without delay. The legal words used in the criminal justice system with respect to talking to a lawyer are “the right to retain and instruct counsel without delay”.
When a youth has his or her own lawyer to represent them, this lawyer is called a defence lawyer or defence counsel. This lawyer’s primary goal is to protect the rights of the accused youth.
Listed below are all of the times in the youth justice process when youth have to be told that they have the right to talk to a lawyer:
- when they are arrested or detained (sections 25(2));
- if they choose to make a statement to the police (section 146);
- when considering whether to agree to an extrajudicial sanction (section 25(1));
- during the extrajudicial sanction process (section 10(2)(d));
- at an appearance in court (section 32(1)(b));
- at a hearing, trial or review (section 25(3)).
There are many types of hearings in the youth justice process. The following list describes types of hearings and reviews that might happen in a youth’s case. At all of these times, the youth must be told of the right to counsel (section 25(3)).
- pre-trial detention hearings
- adult sentencing hearings
- hearings to decide whether to detain a youth to the end of a custody sentence
- hearings to decide whether the young person has breached a conditional supervision
- hearings to set the conditions of a young person’s conditional supervision
- hearings to decide whether suspending a young person’s conditional supervision is appropriate
- reviews of a youth sentence
When a young person goes to court for a first appearance without being represented by a lawyer, the court cannot accept the youth’s plea (guilty or not guilty) until the judge has:
- made sure the young person understands the charge (section 32 (3)(a));
- if necessary, explained that the youth may get an adult sentence, and explained how the youth can apply for a youth sentence (section 32(3)(b));
- explained that the youth may plead guilty or not guilty to the charge or, if necessary, explained the election options for youth who might get an adult sentence (section 32(3) (c)).