Provincial Offences under the Youth Justice (British Columbia) Act (2:IV)

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This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by the Law Students' Legal Advice Program on July 18, 2021.

The original Young Offenders (British Columbia) Act, RSBC 1996, c 494 [“YO(BC)A”] was proclaimed on May, 1984 to complement the federal Young Offenders Act. In April, 2004, the YO(BC)A was replaced with the Youth Justice Act, SBC 2003, c 85 [“YJA”]. The YJA imposes tougher sentences on young persons for gang activity, driving offences, and contraband activity within youth custody facilities. The YJA updates the provisions of the YO(BC)A in order to reflect new practices within the youth criminal justice system, as well as to render the provincial legislation more consistent with the federal YCJA. The YJA acts to narrowly expand custodial sentence options within the province, as well as to create a small number of new offences. Under the previous YO(BC)A, probation was the harshest sentence imposed on young persons, but under the new YJA, young persons may face jail time for six different offences. This legislation is not often used, and so only a brief overview is provided below.

A. Definition of Young Person

Under the YJA, “young person” is defined as a person who has reached 12 years of age but is less than 18 years of age (s. 1).

B. Notice to Parents

If a young person is charged with an offence and is required to appear in court, the person who issued the process must immediately give written notice of the charge against the young person and the time and place of that young person’s court appearance to a parent of the young person, if a parent is available. This section does not apply where proceedings are commenced by way of a violation ticket (ss 5(1) and (2)).

If a young person is going to be detained until their court appearance, the officer in charge at the time of the young person’s detention must give written or oral notice of the arrest to a parent of the young person as soon as possible, if a parent is available. The notice must state the place of detention and the reason for the arrest of the young person (s. 5(3)).

If notice is not given under sections 5(1) or (3), the proceedings are still valid (s. 5(4)).

C. Sentencing

1. General

Once a young person is found guilty of an offence, the Court must impose one or more of the available sentences provided within the YJA, and no others (s. 8(1)). The sentence is effective as of the date it is imposed by the court, unless the young person is already serving a custodial sentence, in which case the new sentence will be imposed on the date of expiry of the previous custodial sentence (ss 9(1) and (2)).

The possible sentences available to the court are:

  • an absolute or conditional discharge, if there is no minimum penalty required for an adult convicted of that offence, and if it is in the best interest of the young person and not contrary to the public interest;
  • a maximum fine of $1,000;
  • community work service hours to a maximum of 240 hours and to be completed within a specified period no longer than one year;
  • probation for a maximum of 6 months;
  • custody not exceeding 30 days for specified offences under s. 8(2)(e) (for example, trespassing on school grounds under section 177(2) of the School Act);
  • custody not exceeding 90 days for other offences specified under section 8(2)(f) (for example, driving while prohibited or suspended under sections 95(1), 102, or 234(1) of the Motor Vehicle Act); and/or
  • a driving prohibition for an offence under the Motor Vehicle Act.

The Court must not impose a sentence that results in punishment being imposed on a young person that is greater than the maximum punishment that could be imposed on an adult who has been convicted of the same offence (s. 8(5)).

NOTE: Custodial sentences under the YJA do not include a period of community supervision, as under the YCJA. However, the Court may order a period of probation to follow a custodial sentence if it thinks it appropriate.

2. Sentence Review

A young person, a parent of the young person, or the Attorney General may apply for a review of the young person’s sentence if the Court deems it appropriate (s. 15(1)). The application may be made at any time after three months after the date the sentence was given, or with leave of the Court at any time.

In the case of custodial sentences under section 8(2)(e) or (f), an application may be made once the greater of 15 days or one third of the sentence has been served (s. 15(2)). Under a review, the Court may vary, rescind, or confirm the sentence, or make an entirely new sentence, but the new or varied sentence must not be more onerous than the sentence under review (ss 15(8) and (9)).

D. Special Concerns

1. Publication of a Young Person’s Identity

The provisions under Part 6 of the YCJA that ban the publication of a young person’s identity apply to the YJA (s. 4(1)). See Section III.J.2: Publication of a Young Person’s Identity.

2. Records

The provisions of the YCJA governing the records of young persons dealt with under that Act are deemed to apply to the YJA (s. 4(1)). The sections of the YCJA which apply to the YJA are sections 114 to 116, sections 118 to 127 and section 129. See Section III.J.4: Records: Access and Disclosure.

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