In Canada, a young offender is a person who is between the ages of 12 and 17 who commits an offence under federal law. This can include an offence against the Criminal Code, or the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
While young offenders have their own special legislation called the Youth Criminal Justice Act, they can still face serious penalties depending on the severity of their offences. Youth offenders are not sent to adult prisons and there is usually an emphasis on rehabilitation in these cases.
What Does a Youth Record Show?
Youth records include charges laid against the offender, any previous findings of guilt, sentences received and information on the progress of finishing the sentence. The time frame a youth record remains on file is entirely dependent on the outcome of the case.
In 2003, the Youth Criminal Justice Act replaced the Young Offenders Act. The legislation in the YCJA was created in the interests of protecting young people. It allows special rights such as having cases heard in youth courts, along with the right to stay anonymous in the public eye. Penalties are also less severe and more flexible to each given case.
How Long Do Youth Convictions Stay on File?
Minor convictions will remain on file for 3 years after the completion of a sentence. More serious convictions can remain on file for up to 5 years after the completion of a sentence. These waiting periods start from the end of the last sentencing that was given to the young offender.
In more serious cases that involve sexual assault and other violent crimes, the youth record can remain open for 10 or more years. Note: This has nothing to do with age, and convictions do not disappear once an offender turns 18. They remain active and are concealed after an applicable waiting period if a pardon is not necessary.
When a Pardon is Required and When it is Not
If the entirety of the criminal record took place when the offender was under the age of 18 in addition to being prior to 1984, a pardon is still required because this was before the legislation of the Young Offenders Act – which is now known as the YCJA.
Your record will likely still be on file with the RCMP and the local police agency.
The moment an offender is convicted of an offence in court at the age of 18 or older, the convictions as a youth remain publicly visible and a pardon is required to have them removed from public view.
However, if the conviction took place under the Young Offenders Act and the young offender was under the age of 18, the record should be removed after the requisite waiting periods have expired.
It’s also important to note that if you do not have your youth records pardoned and incur adult convictions, your adult record will be ‘locked in’ to your youth records permanently until you apply for and receive a pardon for both your youth and adult records.
If the offence of the young offender was the only one incurred and there are no adult convictions, the record of the offence will be sealed after the applicable waiting period.