Area of Law: Criminal Records
Answer # 2138
How are youth criminal records sealed or destroyed?Region: Ontario Answer # 2138
Contrary to popular belief, a youth criminal record does not simply cease to exist when a youth turns eighteen years old. With the exception of records kept in the RCMP’s Identification data bank, a person, agency, or government office may, at their discretion, destroy records at any time. Each partner within the criminal justice system who creates those records can either keep them for as long as they wish, or remove or destroy them pursuant to an internal policy.
Although they are not under a legal obligation to do so, most police services destroy (or at least seal) youth criminal records once the non-disclosure period, as set out in the YCJA, has been reached. In addition, when the non-disclosure period has been reached, individuals, agencies, or government offices will also usually destroy the records upon request from the young person.
Youth records being held in the RCMP Identification data bank, however, must be removed and destroyed by the RCMP, once the non-disclosure date has been reached. Physical records must be destroyed by shredding, burning, or otherwise physically destroying them. Electronic records are deleted, written over, or otherwise rendered inaccessible.
Notwithstanding this removal and destruction process, in a youth criminal record relating to an ongoing investigation or outstanding orders (e.g., prohibition order, parole, etc.) must only be removed from the RCMP Investigative data bank at the end of the period for which the order is in force. This means that records held in the RCMP Investigative data bank and accessible through CPIC, are only removed after the conditions of the outstanding order have been met. Therefore, a criminal record could still be found on a CPIC search of the Investigative data bank even though the non-disclosure date for the conviction has been reached and the RCMP Identification data bank records have been destroyed.
Furthermore, the YCJA states that if the information in the RCMP data bank is “maintained . . . to match crime-scene information and that relates to an offence committed or alleged to have been committed by a young person,” this information shall be removed from the main data bank and sealed in the same manner as adult records where a pardon has been granted. This means that many of the youth records held by the RCMP are never destroyed, but are kept in a separate data bank accessible to the RCMP for investigative purposes.
Given the numerous places a youth record may be created, maintained, and transferred to, it is in the young person’s best interest to contact all the known places where the record may exist and request that it be destroyed.
If you have been charged with a criminal offence, refer to our criminal law section.
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