The Impact of the Youth Criminal Justice Act on Police Charging Practices with Young Persons: A Preliminary Statistical Assessment

3.0 Findings (continued)

3.4 Substantial reductions in charging in incidents involving less serious offences; small reductions in incidents involving more serious offences (continued)

Figure 17. Rates of young persons charged, not charged (extrajudicial measures), and chargeable, possess stolen property, Canada, 1986-2003

Figure 18. Rates of young persons charged, not charged (extrajudicial measures), and chargeable, other Criminal Code offences, Canada, 1986-2003

Figure 19 shows that there was a small reduction (5%) in 2003 in charging in incidents involving an indictable property offence. [51] However, the rate of young persons charged for indictable property offences has been declining since 1991, and the recorded rate of young persons not charged (i.e. dealt with by extrajudicial measures) has been increasing since 1999, so the changes in 2003 could be seen as continuations of pre-existing trends (Figure 19a). On the other hand, the increase in the recorded use of extrajudicial measures in 2003 was larger than in 2000 to 2002, and was concentrated in the last three quarters, suggesting that at least part of the change in 2003 in police charging practices with indictable property offences was in response to the coming into force of the YCJA.

Figure 19. Rates of young persons charged, not charged (extrajudicial measures), and chargeable, indictable property offences, Canada, 1986-2003

There was also a small reduction (3%) in 2003 in charging for “violent” offences, or offences against the person (Figure 20) [52]. However, the rate of charging for this category of offences also declined in 2002, and the recorded use of alternatives to charging has been increasing since 1999. As with indictable property offences (above), there was an increase in the recorded use of extrajudicial measures in 2003, and the changes were concentrated in the last three quarters. The evidence suggests that, as expected, the YCJA has had at most a very small impact on charging practices with this category of offence.

Figure 20. Rates of young persons charged, not charged (extrajudicial measures), and chargeable, all offences against the person except assault level 1, Canada, 1986-2003

Figure 21a shows that very little discretion not to charge is exercised by police in recorded incidents of bail violations and failure to appear for court. The reasons for this are complex, and the data probably understate the number of cases in which charges were not laid, due to under-reporting of such cases by police. [53] In 2003, there was a very small reduction (2%) in the rate of young persons charged with violations of bail conditions and fail to appear for court, and a slightly larger increase in the recorded use of extrajudicial measures. The overall rate of chargeable young persons increased very slightly (1%; see Figure 21b). Although the rate of charging for these offences has been decreasing since 2001, the increase in 2003 in the use of extrajudicial measures, and the concentration of the changes in the last three quarters, suggests that the changes in 2003 were at least partly the result of the YCJA , and not simply a continuation of a pre-existing trend. However, the changes were very small, contrary to our expectations.

Figure 21. Rates of young persons charged, not charged (extrajudicial measures), and chargeable, bail violations and fail to appear, Canada, 1986-2003

In 2003, the rate of young persons charged with fraud [54] decreased, and the rate of youth dealt with by extrajudicial measures increased by a corresponding amount (Figure 22a). However, youth charge rates for fraud have been decreasing since 2000. Furthermore, the analysis by quarter shows decreases greater than the annual trend only in the second and third quarters of 2003, and above-average increases in extrajudicial measures only in the second quarter. Therefore, it is not clear to what extent the changes in 2003 in police practices in relation to fraud offences by youth are a response to the YCJA, or simply the continuation of a pre-existing trend.

Figure 22. Rates of young persons charged, not charged (extrajudicial measures), and chargeable, fraud, Canada, 1986-2003

Figure 23 shows the rates of young persons charged, chargeable, and dealt with by extrajudicial measures in incidents in which the most serious alleged offence was a breach of a probation condition. Although the UCR Survey does not have a separate category for violations of probation conditions, the numbers provided for “other federal statutes” are used here as a proxy for this offence. [55] This can be done because alleged breaches of probation orders by young persons are normally classified as “failure to comply with a disposition” under the YOA and YCJA, rather than as violations of probation conditions under the Criminal Code, and are therefore reported under “other federal statutes” by the UCR. The number of young persons implicated in offences under the remaining federal statutes included in this UCR category is negligible. [56]

Figure 23. Rates of young persons charged, not charged (extrajudicial measures), and chargeable, violations of probation conditions, Canada, 1986-2003

The evidence presented in Figure 23 is difficult to interpret. There was a reduction from 2002 to 2003 of 13% in the rate of young persons charged, but the charge rate in 2002 was unusually high; the rate in 2003 was not substantially different from the rates in 1999 to 2001 (Figures 23a and 23c). The recorded rate of youth dealt with by extrajudicial measures in 2003 was substantially higher than in 1999 to 2002 (Figure 23a), but this increase was evident in all four quarters of 2003 (Figure 23d). The overall recorded rate of chargeable youth was higher in 2003 than in 1999 to 2001, though not higher than in 2002 (Figure 23b). Thus, there is no clear evidence that the coming into force of the YCJA has resulted in a decrease in charging with this type of offence.


  • [51]In the case of young persons, the majority of indictable property offences are break and enter, but the category also includes theft over and motor vehicle theft. Fraud is discussed separately below.
  • [52] These include robbery, homicide, attempt murder, assault levels 2 and 3, all levels of sexual assault, abduction, and all other offences against the person except assault level 1, which was discussed separately above.
  • [53] For discussion of this issue, see Carrington and Schulenberg 2004a; Schulenberg 2004; Schulenberg, forthcoming.
  • [54] The aggregate UCR Survey does not provide data which distinguish between fraud under and fraud over, but the great majority of incidents in which young persons are implicated involve fraud under.
  • [55] See Carrington and Schulenberg, 2004a: note 15, p. 47.
  • [56] The UCR category “Other federal statutes” includes the YOA , YCJA , Income Tax Act, Competition Act, National Defence Act, and miscellaneous other federal statutes (Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, 2002: Section 6).
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