The Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) refers to the law that guides the youth justice system in Canada. The Act applies to people who are at least 12 years of age, but younger than 18, and have committed a criminal offence. Once a youth is convicted of a criminal offence, they have a youth record that contains information related to their offence(s). Here is some information on the destruction of youth criminal records in Canada.
What’s Included in a Youth Record?
Typically, a youth record includes the person’s name, date of birth, details about their charges, the arrest and the sentence that was given. Any pertinent information provided by the youth’s victims, family members, teachers or school authorities and neighbours may also be included. This information is collected and kept as part of the YCJA, but that doesn’t mean just anyone can access it.
Limited Access to Youth Criminal Records
Unlike the records of adults in the justice system, youth records can only be accessed by a select few people, and in specific situations. A youth’s privacy is protected throughout the arrest, verdict and sentencing stages of the process, and all personal information is strictly confidential. Some of the people that may be granted access to a youth criminal record include the youth and his or her family members or lawyer, judges and review boards, crown prosecutors, officials at the correctional facility the youth is serving a sentence in, police involved in the case or the victim.
The Destruction of Youth Criminal Records
In keeping with the idea of rehabilitation and second chances, youth criminal records in Canada can be sealed or destroyed if certain conditions are met. Some of the factors that dictate how long a record remains open include the severity of the crime or crimes, the length and severity of the sentence imposed and whether the youth commits secondary offences while the first record is still open.
The period of time while the record is open is called the “access period” and it is after this period officially ends that the record is destroyed. However, if a person has an open youth record and they turn 18 and commit another crime, their youth record will become part of the adult record, so it is very important for youth with open records to stay on the right side of the law once they reach their 18th birthday.
Access Periods Based on Offence & Sentence
Here is more specific information regarding access periods, offences and sentences for crimes committed that are contrary to the Youth Criminal Justice Act:
Acquittal – If a youth is acquitted of the crime (not including being found not criminally responsible due to a mental disorder) the record is sealed or destroyed 2 months after the time allowed to file an appeal. If an appeal has been filed, the record is sealed or destroyed 3 months after all proceedings are completed that relate to the appeal.
Dismissal or Withdrawal of Charges – In this case, the record is sealed or destroyed after 2 months.
Guilty Verdict with Reprimand – record is sealed or destroyed after 2 months.
Stayed Charge – If the charge is stayed in court, the record is sealed or destroyed after 1 year, as long as no further court proceedings have been taken in the matter.
Extrajudicial Sanction Imposed – record is sealed or destroyed 2 years after the youth has given consent for the extrajudicial sanction.
Guilty Verdict with Absolute Discharge – record is sealed or destroyed 1 year after the guilty verdict.
Guilty Verdict with Conditional Discharge – record is sealed or destroyed 3 years after the guilty verdict.
Guilty Verdict with Sentence for Summary Conviction Offence – record is sealed or destroyed 3 years after the sentence is completed, but additional offences will result in an extension.
Guilty Verdict with Sentence for Indictable Offence – record is sealed or destroyed 5 years after the sentence is completed, but additional offences will result in an extension.
Guilty Verdict with Adult Sentence – record is treated the same as an adult record, and the same rule apply.
Various Scheduled Offences – record is retained for 5 more years.
Murder, Manslaughter, Attempted Murder or Aggravated Sexual Assault – record can be retained indefinitely.
A Word About Record Suspensions
It’s worthy to note that what used to be called a “parole pardon” is now called a “record suspension” by the Canadian government. This action allows people formerly convicted of a criminal offence to have their record kept separate from other criminal records if they have completed their sentence and demonstrated their ability to be law abiding citizens for a prescribed number of years.
While a record suspension does not erase the fact that someone has committed a crime, it does remove all of the information pertaining to the conviction from the Canadian Police Information Centre and may help when seeking employment or other activities where the applicant wouldn’t want this information revealed.