The PLEA: The Youth Criminal Justice Act

The PLEA: The Youth Criminal Justice Act

Extrajudicial Measures and Extrajudicial Sanctions

Reducing the use of courts—especially for less-serious crimes—is an objective of the YCJA. But this does not mean young people are not accountable for their actions.

Not all crimes are necessarily best dealt with in a courtroom situation. To keep less serious cases out of the courts, the Youth Criminal Justice Act allows the police and crown prosecutors to use extrajudicial measures and extrajudicial sanctions.


Extrajudicial measures are an out-of-court alternative for dealing with offences committed by youth who are not serious, repeat offenders.

Before being charged with a crime, the police must first consider whether using an extrajudicial measure would be sufficient to hold the young person accountable for the offence. Extrajudicial measures are presumed to be adequate to deal with first-time, non-violent offenders. They should also be used to deal with other situations if using such measures, instead of going to court, would hold the young person accountable for their offending behaviour.

If extrajudicial measures would be sufficient, the police are encouraged to:

  • take no further action against the young person
  • warn or caution the young person
  • with consent, refer the young person to a community program to help him or her avoid committing further offences

Although youth who are warned, cautioned or referred to a community program are not required to admit guilt for the offence, police must keep a record of the extrajudicial measures. While a record of past warnings, cautions, or referrals cannot be considered in sentencing for a further offence, the police and crown prosecutors can use the record to help decide whether to charge a young person or use
extrajudicial measures in relation to subsequent offences.


Extrajudicial sanctions are the most formal type of extrajudicial measure. A crown prosecutor must be satisfied that there is enough evidence to support prosecuting the offence. The youth must accept responsibility for their offending behaviour and agree to the extrajudicial sanction. An extrajudicial sanction can require the youth to do such things as:

  • perform community service
  • pay back the victim for any harm that may have been caused
  • attend counselling or treatment programs

Young people have the right to talk to a lawyer before agreeing to an extrajudicial sanction. A record of an extrajudicial sanction may be considered by the court when sentencing a young person for a further offence.


If the young person does not complete all the things required of them for an extrajudicial sanction, the matter may be dealt with in court. However, if the young person admitted responsibility for the offence as a condition of the extrajudicial sanction, the admission cannot be used against them in later court proceedings regarding the same offence.

Provinces may have special rules that require permission from the goverment before charges can be laid in certain cases. This gives a final chance to deal with the offence without having to go to court.

CONSIDER THIS: Using Extrajudicial Measures and Extrajudicial Sanctions

Incident One: Alex and the Bicycle

Alex, 14 years old, is on his way home from school. He notices an expensive mountain bike inside a partially opened garage. The garage faces the alley and no one seems to be around. Alex enters the garage, looks around and decides to take the bicycle. After riding it around for a while he realizes he’d better get home. But he can’t just show up with a bike that isn’t his. He ditches it in an alley not too far from his house and then carries on.

Meanwhile, the owner of the bike has returned to his garage after going inside his house to get a drink. He immediately notices that the bike is gone and calls the police. The police manage to recover the bike later that night. Acting on a tip, the police attend at Alex’s home to question him about the incident.

The police inform Alex that he has the right to speak with a lawyer. As the police begin to ask Alex about his involvement, in the presence of both of his parents, Alex immediately confesses to having taken the bike, expresses his remorse and acknowledges that it was a stupid thing to do.

Alex has no prior youth record. He is an average student and loves to play basketball and hockey.


  1. What would you do about Alex if you were the police? Make a list of several possibilities.
  2. Consider and evaluate the consequences of each option.
  3. Of the options, what do you believe to be the best? Justify your decision.

Incident Two: Jayne and Kirsten in Trouble

Jayne and Kirsten, both 15 years old, are caught stealing clothes valued at $190 from a store. The police attend and, after asking the girls a few questions, decide to take them home and interview them with the girls’ parents present. As they drive towards the girls’ homes they request any available background information from central records.

Jayne’s parents are not at home, but are well-known to the police and social services for failing to provide adequate supervision to their children. The report on Jayne discloses one previous incident where she was caught trying to steal some costume jewellery, valued at $28, from the same store. She was given a warning. Jayne has nothing to say about the stolen clothes.

Kirsten admits stealing the clothes together with Jayne. She says that she has never been in trouble with the law before and her report doesn’t disclose any previous incidents. Kirsten’s parents are very concerned to learn about her involvement in the theft and assure the police that she will be disciplined accordingly. They think the two girls should not be allowed to spend time together, although they attend the same school.


  1. Should Jayne and Kirsten be treated the same? Why or why not?
  2. What options are open to the police?
  3. What personal circumstances would you consider in determining an appropriate response to this incident?
  4. If you were the officer involved, what action would you take in relation to each girl? Why?
  5. Is having information about past incidents and how they were handled helpful? Explain.

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