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780 Who is a young offender?
- Who is a young offender?A young offender is someone between the ages of 12 and 17 who commits an offence under federal law, such as the Criminal Code or the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Rather than being treated as an adult, young offenders are handled under a special law called the Young Offender's Act. Although a young offender can still face serious penalties for certain offences, they are not sent to adult prisons and there is generally a greater emphasis on rehabilitation.
- How is a young offender treated differently?A young offender is treated differently from an adult in at least three specific ways. First, a young offender is given some extra legal rights. In addition to the normal right to consult a lawyer when stopped by police, young offenders also have the right to speak with their parents or guardians, and the right not to be publicly identified.
Second, a young offender's trial takes place in a different court. Whereas adult trials take place in the Superior Court of Justice, or in the Ontario Court of Justice, young offender trials take place in Youth Court. The trial is often held in private and the details of the case are confidential.
Third, the penalties for young offenders are different, often with more options and more flexibility. For example, the judge could place the young offender under the supervision of their parents, or the judge could order the young offender to be at home by a certain time each night. The judge might also decide to order the young offender to perform community service, or to pay a fine. Although the judge has the power to place the young offender in a foster home or in a detention centre, this is generally a last resort. The court only separates a young offender from their family if there are no other ways of dealing with the offender and protecting the public.
A trial can have a number of serious implications and consequences for a young offender. Young offenders should contact a lawyer for legal assistance.