Youth Sentencing Options


Read the stories and answer the questions below.

A Shopping Trip

Marie and Patricia, both aged 13, were hanging around on a Saturday at the local mall. Marie had very little money, but she and Patricia liked to window-shop. Sometimes, they also tried on clothes in the stores. Patricia put on an expensive sweater, covered it with her coat, then walked out of the store without paying for the sweater.

The store clerk caught Patricia and Marie, then called their parents and the police. The clerk said that the girls were trying on clothes and were out of her sight. Then, when the girls started to leave the store, the clerk noticed a sweater hanging down from Patricia’s coat. She ran out of the store and stopped the two girls. She asked to see the sweater, and the girls admitted that they had stolen it.

The sweater was worth $90.00 and the storeowner wanted this case to go to court. The girls had never been charged or convicted of an offence before.

  • What you would do if you were the judge and you were hearing this case in the courtroom? Assume that the accused youth has either plead guilty or has been found guilty.
  • What sentencing option would you use? Explain why you think it is appropriate in the circumstances.

The Gang Wannabes Home Invasion

Louis and Brian are 14 years old. They break into a home. An elderly couple is at home during the invasion and the husband attempts to defend his property. The husband falls to the ground during the scuffle with the two boys. He hits his head on the coffee table and gets a severe head wound. He dies within minutes of the paramedics arriving at the home.

The boys are found guilty of break and enter and manslaughter. Louis is a repeat offender who has committed two serious violent offences and Brian has no criminal record.

  • What sentence you would give to each of the accused. Why you have decided on that sentence?

1. In the cases above, what principle of sentencing did you need to keep in mind before you sentenced the youth? What kind of information could you have looked at before you sentenced the youth? What kind of weight did you give to the fact of the youth being in trouble with the law before? Do you think that you arrived at an appropriate and fair sentence for each of the youth?

2. Read the series of cases below and decide which option you would recommend to the judge if you were Crown counsel. Try the exercise again as defence counsel. Is there a difference in your recommendations to the judge?

  • Tom, 14, broke into cars and stole a lot of change. He has never been in trouble before.
  • Rachel, 15, ran away from home. She lived on the street and then with some friends. Last year, she got caught shoplifting and was put on probation. Recently, she got caught using drugs.
  • Sam, 17, broke into a house and was carrying out the things he stole when a man came home and stopped him. Sam had a knife. He stabbed the man and ran away. The man went to hospital but later died.