Adult Sentences For Youth


  • Deciding if an adult sentence is appropriate only takes place after a finding of guilt in youth court.
  • If the offence is first or second degree murder, attempted murder, manslaughter or sexual aggravated assault an adult sentence can be ordered by the judge.
  • Adult sentences should only be used in cases where the youth sentence would not be of sufficient length to hold the youth accountable, bearing in mind the reduced level of maturity and the greater dependency of youth.
  • The Crown must give notice to the youth and the court that it is seeking an adult sentence. The burden is on the Crown to prove that an adult sentence is appropriate.
  • The Crown may choose at any time during the proceedings not to pursue an adult sentence.
  • If an adult sentence is being sought and a conviction may attract a penalty of five or more years, then the youth may elect the mode of trial.
  • If a youth sentence is sought, then there is no election - except in the case of first or second degree murder where the youth penalty could be 10 and 7 years respectively.
  • During elections, youth may elect :
    • A trial by a youth justice court judge without a jury
    • A trial by judge without a jury, following a preliminary inquiry
    • A trial by judge and jury, following a preliminary inquiry
  • The court must hold a hearing to determine whether a youth or adult sentence should be imposed and must state its reasons for the decision.
  • Corrections have more flexibility under the YCJA with regard to the placement of the youth who have been given an adult sentence.
  • A youth under the age of 18 would serve the adult sentence in a youth facility unless it would not be in the best interests of the youth or the youth would jeopardize the safety of others.