The youth justice system affects individuals between the ages of 12 and 17 who get into trouble with the law. Youth in Calgary and across Canada face a multitude of problems that can increase their likelihood of becoming involved in a crime.
Youth in Poverty
Growing up in poverty can mean a lack of good nutritious food, which can mean lower energy levels, difficulty concentrating in school, and fewer social opportunities. Many of these youth fall in with the wrong crowd, get involved in crime, then end up facing criminal charges in the youth justice system, then when they become of age and if their criminal behavior continues, then end up in the adult court system. Once you have an adult criminal record, there can be challenges getting employment.
The statistics for youth in poverty in Canada are significant:
- 1 in 7 (or 4.9 million) people in Canada live in poverty.
- 1 in 8 Canadian households struggle to put food on the table.
- Youth aged 16-24 make up about 20% of the homeless population
Youth with Mental Health Concerns
According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health …
- 34% of high-school students indicate a moderate-to-serious level of psychological distress (symptoms of anxiety and depression).
- 14% of high-school students indicate a serious level of psychological distress.33
- 70% of mental health problems have their onset during childhood or adolescence.
- Young people aged 15 to 24 are more likely to experience mental illness and/or substance use disorders than any other age group.
- Canadians in the lowest income group are 3 to 4 times more likely than those in the highest income group to report poor to fair mental health.
Youth and the Youth Criminal Justice Act
The Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) states that the youth criminal justice system is intended to protect the public by holding youth accountable, promoting the rehabilitation and reintegration of youth back into society, and preventing crime. It says that the youth criminal justice system must be separate from the adult system and based on the principle that youth are presumed to be less morally blameworthy than adults. This means that the law recognizes that youth must be held accountable, but in a way that takes into account their greater dependency and reduced level of maturity.
The YCJA also aims to promote the rehabilitation of youth, help them successfully reintegrate back into society and prevent them from committing further offences.
An Experienced Youth Lawyer
Dealing with youth cases requires a criminal defence lawyer with the knowledge and experience to deal with the rules, procedures, and sensitivities required by this specialized area of the law. If you or someone you know is a youth facing criminal charges in Calgary, contact Maureen McConaghy, an experienced youth criminal defence lawyer, for a free consulutation.