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  • Paul Lewandowski is a lawyer who practises criminal defence law.


There is a principle of law that states that like cases should be treated alike. In criminal law, this principle extends to the sentencing regime and ensures that offenders convicted of crimes are given sentences commensurate with other offenders convicted of similar crimes. By statute, Parliament has decided that there is one important exception to this rule: youth. Historically, youth crime was governed by the Juvenile Delinquents Act. While in hindsight, this act may have been a flawed piece of legislation, it lay the foundation for the theory of rehabilitative youth justice that we have today. The Juvenile Delinquents Act was followed in the 80′s by the Young Offenders Act, which was then replaced, in 2004, by the Youth Criminal Justice Act. Thus, if a young person (under 18) is charged with a criminal offence, they have added protections by virtue of the Youth Criminal Justice Act, which are not afforded to an adult. From a policy perspective, this topic generates a plethora of reactions. The uninitiated often lament that Canada is too soft on youth. Those who work within the system, however, understand that complicated circumstances which beget youth crime. Substantively, the YCJA contains protections from oppressive police interrogations, and ensures that youth who are in custody are held at specialized facilities, lest they be abused in adult jail. The most poignant provisions of the YCJA, however, are those that relate to sentencing. The Criminal Code of Canada mandates several principles of sentencing that must be considered when imposing punishment. Specifically, general deterrence, specific deterrence, rehabilitation, reparations, separation. All of these same principles apply to youth. However, when a youth is sentenced under the YCJA, the court is required to focus more heavily on the principle of rehabilitation. In essence, while punishment should be imposed, the YCJA mandates that it should not be imposed at the expense of rehabilitation. The YCJA focusses on long term prospects for the prevention of crime, as opposed to the sometimes myopic focus of recent amendments to the Criminal Code, such as mandatory minimum sentences. Whether or not the layman agrees with the YCJAs approach, as a criminal defence lawyer, we are able to use the policy underpinnings of the YCJA to ensure that reasonable sentences are imposed on our youth clients. With careful review and firm advocacy, we are able to ensure that a youths future is not jeopardized by the long term detrimental effects of a criminal record, by virtue of one or two mistakes typical of a young person.


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Paul Lewandowski Professional Corporation
200 Elgin St,
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada,
K2P 1L5