The Youth Criminal Justice Act, like its predecessor, the Young Offenders Act, incorporates philosophies, principles and ideologies from several theoretical models of youth justice. Concerns have been raised regarding how challenging it is for the various youth justice professionals such as judges, lawyers and youth probation officers responsible for implementing this law to apply it consistently across cases with varying characteristics. This study will examine the complexity of the YCJA from a theoretical, legal and policy perspective by looking at a number of different aspects of the legislation. Firstly, a description of five theoretical models of youth justice will be explored in order to help explain the varying case law interpretations of certain YCJA provisions by provincial/territorial and appellate judges, including key decisions made by the Supreme Court of Canada to resolve the case law debate across Canada. Secondly, this study examines the perceptions and decision-making styles of 147 youth probation officers from the province of British Columbia. It involves probation officers reviewing five actual serious and/or violent young offender cases from across Canada. Their theoretical orientation to each case was derived as well as a comparative analysis of YPO sentencing recommendations and the final judicial sentencing decision. Finally, this study will report on a qualitative sample of Canadian senior youth justice officials in relation to the potential impact of the deterrence principle being added to the YCJA in October 2012.
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Thesis advisor: Corrado, Raymond
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