Diversion, Conferencing, and Extrajudicial Measures for Adolescent Offenders
AbstractIn responding to youth crime, Canada makes disproportionate use of courts and custodial sentences, while other countries divert more youth from the formal justice system and make greater use of community-based responses. This article surveys diversion from the youth courts under the different youth justice regimes that have existed in Canada, including informal and formal screening, police and Crown cautions, and use of youth justice committees and conferencing. The newly enacted Youth Criminal Justice Act is intended to encourage greater use of these diversionary "extrajudicial measures," and more use of a "restorative justice " approach to cases. A major limitation is that these provisions are permissive, and create no new legal rights for youths and impose no new obligations on governments. It will be up to provincial governments to decide whether to allow police, prosecutors and local program operators to actually implement these provisions. Further, depending on how these provisions are implemented, there are legitimate concerns about the potential for these informal responses to abuse the rights of youths or ignore the needs of victims. There should be both monitoring of the implementation of these provisions and research to determine how effective they are at reducing offending, and meeting the needs of victims, offenders and communities.
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