Sentencing Principles


  • Principles guide judges in deciding on a fair and appropriate sentence.
  • The purpose of sentencing is to hold the youth accountable through "just sanctions" that ensure meaningful consequences for them and which promote their rehabilitation and reintegration into society.
  • Sentences should not be more severe than what an adult would receive for the same offence and should be similar to youth sentences in similar youth cases.
  • Sentences should be proportional to the seriousness of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the youth.
  • The sentence should be the least restrictive alternative most likely to rehabilitate and reintegrate the youth and should also promote in the youth a sense of responsibility and an acknowledgement of the harm done.
  • Before custody is considered, all reasonable alternatives that will hold the youth accountable should be used.
  • Sanctions other than custody should be considered for all young persons, with particular attention to the circumstances of Indigenous youth.
  • A youth cannot be committed to custody unless:
    • the youth committed a violent offence,
    • the youth failed to comply with non-custodial sentences,
    • the youth has been found guilty of failing to comply with multiple sentences and their failure to comply created harm or risk of harm to the public,or
    • in exceptional cases, where a non-custodial sentence would be inconsistent with the purpose and principles as set out in the YCJA.
  • Approximately one-third of custodial sentences are served and supervised in the community.