Youth Records and Access Periods
A youth record contains information about a person’s involvement with the criminal justice system as a youth. This can include any uses of extrajudicial sanctions, findings of built for crimes, and sentences imposed. However, access to a youth record is limited by the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA), which aims to protect the privacy of young persons who are accused or found guilty of crimes. This blog post aims to clarify when a youth record can be accessed and by whom.
Section 119(1) of the YCJA restricts access to youth records to certain people such as (a) the offender, (b) his or her lawyers, (c) the Attorney General, including Crown prosecutors, (d) the victim of the offence, (e) the parents or guardians of the offender, (f) certain adults referred to under subsection 25(7), (g) police officers, (h) a judge, court or review board in certain proceedings against the offender, etc. In addition, section 119(2) of the YCJA governs the period of access for youth records. Based on the YCJA, the access period is determined by the offence committed, the sentence imposed and whether the young person commits another offence before the access period expires (ie, while the record is still ‘open’).
The following chart illustrates how the access period to a person’s youth record can vary depending on the offence disposition, the type of offence committed, and whether offences are committed while the youth record is still open.
Once the access period expires, records regarding a young person are sealed or destroyed and cannot be disclosed unless ordered by a Youth Justice Court judge under s. 123(1) of the YCJA. In fact, section 138(1) of the YCJA makes it an offence to provide access or to disclose such records without judicial authority. However, as illustrated above, if a young person commits another offence while their youth record is still open, the access period can become extended. Moreover, if an adult with an open youth record commits another crime, the youth record can become part of their adult record. Furthermore, if young person receives an adult sentence for murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, or aggravated sexual assault, their record is treated as an adult record. As you can see, the law governing access to youth records is not very straightforward. As such, a young person who is charged with a criminal offence should consult a lawyer who is knowledgeable in the area of youth criminal justice, in order to determine what outcomes are in the interest of the young person and to advocate on behalf of the young person.