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Friday, March 12, 2004

Youth court statistics

2002/03

The youth court caseload in Canada has been declining over the past decade, consistent with a decrease in charges laid by police, according to data from the Youth Court Survey.

Youth courts heard 84,592 cases during the 2002/03 fiscal year, 1% fewer than in 2001/02, and 20% fewer than in 1991/92 (the first year for which complete national data coverage was available for the Youth Court Survey).

Steady declines in cases involving property crimes were primarily responsible for the overall drop in caseload. Judges heard 32,465 property crime cases in youth courts in 2002/03. This is a drop of 47% from the 61,124 property cases heard in 1991/92.

The number of drug-related cases has tripled since 1991/92, going from 1,920 to 5,907. In 2002/03, 4,137 of these cases were for possession of drugs.

Accused youth were found guilty in 6 out of 10 cases heard in youth courts in 2002/03. Criminal Code traffic offences had the highest conviction rate (68%); drug-related crimes had the lowest (43%).

About one-quarter of youth cases were withdrawn or dismissed. Proceedings were stayed in 12% of cases, and 1% resulted in findings of not guilty. Transfers to adult court were rare, accounting for only 30 cases; 17 of these involved violent crimes.

Youth court judges ordered a sentence of probation (alone or in combination with other sentences) more frequently than any other type of sentence in 2002/03. Seven out of ten convicted youth cases received a probation order, averaging 375 days. The average length of these sentences has been getting longer; in 1991/92, it was 316 days.

The proportion of convicted youth cases receiving a sentence to secure custody increased gradually from 11% of convicted cases in 1991/92 to 14% in 2002/03. However, the average length of these sentences got shorter over this period, declining from 95 days to 68 days.

Judges were more likely to use sentences to custody for violent crimes than for other types of crime. In 2002/03, 74% of convicted homicide cases resulted in a sentence of secure custody, while 16% resulted in open custody. Secure custody was ordered in 64% of attempted murder cases, while 14% of these cases resulted in a sentence of open custody.

Robbery also frequently resulted in a custody sentence, with 25% of convicted cases receiving secure custody and 25% getting open.

Available on CANSIM: tables 252-0027 to 252-0039.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 3309.

The publication Juristat: Youth Court Statistics, 2002/03, Vol. 24, no. 2 (85-002-XIE, $9/$75, 85-002-XPE, $11/$100) is now available.

A data table is also available in the Canadian statistics module of our website. Choose Justice and crime, then Police and courts.

For standard tables or more information on the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Client Services (1-800-387-2231; 613-951-9023), Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics.

Cases heard in youth court by major crime category
  1991/92 2001/02 2002/03 2001/02 to 2002/03 1991/92 to 2002/03
  number of cases % change
Total cases 105,538 85,640 84,592 -1 -20
Violent crimes 17,917 22,510 22,462 0 25
Property crimes 61,124 33,086 32,465 -2 -47
Administration of Justice offences 8,087 7,698 7,790 1 -4
Other Criminal Code offences 6,598 4,525 4,267 -6 -35
Criminal Code traffic offences 1,909 1,211 1,225 1 -36
Drug-related offences 1,920 6,058 5,907 -2 208
Young Offenders Act offences 7,669 10,414 10,325 -1 35
Residual federal statute offences 314 138 151 9 -52