Youth Reprimands

The Youth Criminal Justice Act allows for a wide range of potential consequences should your child be found guilty of a criminal offence. The vast majority of the available sentences are community based (not jail) to encourage the young person to understand the consequences of their actions, but also to allow them to move forward with their life in a positive way.

One option, which falls at the lenient end of the spectrum of potential sentences is a tool called a reprimand. A reprimand is basically a judicial tongue lashing. It plays out like this: your child pleads guilty to an offence in court and admits his or her wrong doing, and the judge, rather than imposing a sentence (like probation/community service/house arrest) gives your child a lecture highlighting the seriousness of their behaviour. The hope is that your child will leave the courtroom having understood how lucky they are it did not turn out worse, while also feeling encouraged to get back on track.

A reprimand is often appropriate in cases where the crime is not particularly serious, and where the young person has not previously been found guilty of any other criminal offences. It is rare that a prosecutor will agree that a reprimand is the appropriate sentence. Given that, your lawyer will often be in position where he or she has to argue that a reprimand (rather than a more severe punishment) is appropriate, and the judge will decide.

In persuading the judge that a reprimand is fair, it is extremely helpful if your child has made significant efforts to a)identify what factors led to their criminal behaviour b)deal with those issues and c)make amends to the community for their wrongdoing. Examples of these types of efforts would be: volunteer work, letters of apology to those affected by the crime (to be provided to your lawyer NOT sent to the victim(s)), good grades and attendance at school, and involvement in counselling.

If you think that your child may be a good candidate for a reprimand, be sure to speak to your lawyer about it. Reprimands are rare and for a variety of reasons, underused, but they should not be overlooked. They are excellent sentencing tool that will allow your child to move forward with his or her life after an error in judgment that led to a criminal charge.


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