Pre-Trial Detention Under the Young Offenders Act: A Study of Urban Courts

4. Judicial Interim Release: What Factors Affect Court Decision-Making?

4. Judicial Interim Release: What Factors Affect Court Decision-Making?

An analysis of pre-trial detention data from a multi-site study conducted in the last years of the Juvenile Delinquents Act found that factors such as a history of failing to attend court and lack of community ties were most influential in detention decisions by the court (Carrington et al, 1988). This multivariate analysis found that legal factors were also important. More recently, Gandy’s much less complex analysis (1992) of a small sample of bail hearings in three Ontario cities found that the offence histories of the young persons appeared to be the most important factor in detention.

As in the last Section, the first two sections examine the bivariate relationships between social and legal factors and the release decision by the youth court. In the third section, findings from the multivariate analyses are presented. Section four looks at the factors related to specific release conditions imposed on young persons who were released by the youth court.

4.1 Demographic and Social Characteristics of the Young Person

Table 4.1 presents the socio-demographic characteristics of the youth that were detained as a result of judicial interim release proceedings. The two Toronto and Vancouver-area courts are combined in order to increase the number of cases. As in the analyses in Chapter 2, detention by the court is defined as cases where the youth was not released until the proceedings were completed.

4.1.1 Gender, Age and Race

Gender is unrelated to court decision-making at bail hearings. In Toronto the likelihood of 16 and 17 year olds being detained was twice as great as the 12 and 13 year olds. Race is associated with the court decision in the sample as a whole: Aboriginal and black Canadians were detained in larger proportions than are others. When race is re-categorized as Aboriginal Canadians compared to others, Winnipeg and Vancouver Aboriginal Canadians were disproportionately held by the youth court until their case was over. The Manitoba Aboriginal Justice Implementation Committee (2001), after citing the original Inquiry, commented that "the high number of young people in pre-trial detention is of concern to many in the justice and child welfare system".

4.1.2 Social and Socio-legal Variables

In the sample overall and in several courts, young persons who had no stable residence were detained in greater proportions than were those with other living arrangements. The very small numbers of youth living independently or with friends were also especially likely to be held by the court.

There was a tendency in all court locations but Toronto for youth with current or previous involvement with the child protection agency to be held more than those with no involvement. Activity status was associated with pre-trial detention by the youth court except in Edmonton; inactive youth were considerably more likely to be detained.

Mention of suspected association with a gang was related to pre-trial detention by the court in the total sample - 46 percent of those with some involvement were detained, compared to 34 percent of persons with no reported involvement.

The most notable associations between personal characteristics and detention by the court were living arrangements and activity status. These socio-legal factors are considered as grounds for detention for youth. Those not living with parents or others able to supervise their behaviour could be considered as liable not to attend court (primary ground). Those who were inactive - they neither went to school or worked - could be viewed as both unsupervised and lacking community ties, which is another indicator of the primary ground.

The other notable finding is that proportionately more Aboriginal Canadians than persons of other ethnic backgrounds were detained in Winnipeg and Vancouver. It must be emphasized, however, that this finding may - and indeed does - change when other factors are controlled (section 4.3).

Table 4.1

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