In Youth Court, Provincial Court judges deal with young persons aged 12 through 17 who are charged with criminal offences, applying the Criminal Code and the special procedures for young people established by the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
The Youth Criminal Justice Act designates the Provincial Court as the Youth Court for British Columbia. In its preamble and declaration of principle the Act recognizes that young people should be treated differently from adults because they have less maturity and greater dependency. It calls for a youth criminal justice system that:
- commands respect
- takes into account the interests of victims
- fosters responsibility and ensures accountability through meaningful consequences and effective rehabilitation and reintegration
- reserves its most serious intervention for the most serious crimes and reduces the over-reliance on incarceration for non-violent young persons.
The Act provides for the appointment of a lawyer for anyone under 18 charged with an offence under a federal law like the Criminal Code or Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. In these circumstances a young person may apply for Legal Aid in order to get a lawyer.
For information on Youth Court sentencing see Why don’t teenagers get “harsher” sentences? For information on trial scheduling and other procedural matters affecting Youth Court, see the Chief Judge’s Criminal and Youth Court Practice Directions.