The Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA), implemented April 1, 2003, was considered a remedy to the flawed Young Offenders Act (YOA). Canada, once claiming the unenviable distinction as a world leader in youth incarceration rates, sought to reduce the rate of custodial sentences with the new legislation by implementing clear principles as well as the “four gateways” to custody, as articulated in s. 38 and s. 39 of the Act. The purpose of this thesis is to explore how judges have been applying the law when electing a custodial sentence for young offenders. A case-law analysis of 87 court cases is employed. The research reveals a lack of conformity among judges in making the decision to incarcerate youth. Among the issues considered are the various themes surrounding custodial sentences, the reasons for variability in sentencing, and the prospective amendments to the YCJA that are to come.
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Thesis advisor: MacAlister, David
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