Teaching Youth Justice

Section Two: Youth, the Police, and Arrest

The police are usually the first contact that young people have with the youth justice system. The police may question, warn, divert, charge, and in some circumstances arrest a young person if they reasonably believe that the young person has committed an offence or is about to do so.

As discussed in Section 1, extrajudicial measures under the Youth Criminal Justice Act must be considered by the police when they have reasonable grounds to believe that a young person has committed an offence. Options include:

  • taking no further action
  • warning the young person
  • issuing a caution (if a cautioning program exists)
  • referring the matter to a community program or agency, with the young person’s consent

If none of these responses would be adequate to hold the young person responsible for their actions, the police must then consider a more formal extrajudicial sanction.

It is only after considering and rejecting all the extrajudicial options that a police officer can lay a charge in connection with an incident.

This section explores the law when youth are in contact with the police. As a continuation of Section 1, it builds on concepts of police discretion (Lesson 2.1). An overview of young people’s rights on arrest is then put forth (Lesson 2.2). From there, deeper consideration is given to statements to the police and the right to counsel (Lesson 2.3). Finally, this section explores circumstances when individuals other than police officers may be in a position to detain and question young people (Lesson 2.4).

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