Young males over-represented in courts


Young adult men are making up the vast majority of people appearing in courts according to data Statistics Canada released last week.

The numbers, part of an annual survey of court statistics, show that both in youth court and adult court, young males make up a significant percentage of those charged with committing crimes.

Adult men between 18 and 24 made up 31 per cent of people appearing before the courts, despite making up just 12 per cent of the overall population. That same trend was mirrored in youth court, where most offences were committed by people who were 16 or 17 years old.

Local MP Brent Rathgeber, who works on justice issues, said those numbers were the most surprising out of the entire survey, though they are understandable.

“Obviously as people get older and mature they develop healthier and better lifestyles.”

In both levels of court, about two-thirds of all charges end in a finding of guilt. Other charges are either withdrawn, stayed or in very rare cases, people were acquitted after a trial.

The numbers show a continuing trend in youth court sentences away from putting young people in jail. Since the Youth Criminal Justice Act was introduced in 2002, the percentage of young people being incarcerated fell from 27 per cent then to 15 per cent today.

The government is proposing to amend the act to change sentencing guidelines. Rathgeber said the proposed changes won’t drastically change the number of young offenders being sentenced to jail.

“It may result in longer sentences, I don’t think it will result in more sentences.”

The statistics also reveal that very few people who are sentenced to custody in adult court serve more than two years, at just four per cent.

Currently, anyone serving a sentence of less than two years serves that time in a provincial facility, paid for by a provincial government.

Sentences longer than two years are served in a federally funded penitentiary.

Earlier this year the government passed the Truth in Sentencing Act, which eliminated the controversial two-for-one credit for pre-trial custody.

According to the statistics, 55 per cent of people sentenced to jail are sentenced to less than a month, which means provincial governments will have to pay most of the new sentencing costs for longer jail stays.

Rathgeber said he expects there may be issues over how those extended jail stays will be funded, but he can’t say for sure how that will be resolved.

“I don’t think anybody is going to be volunteering to pay for somebody else’s prisoners, however it becomes a relevant concept when one level of government’s legislative change changes another government’s administrative model.”

The parliamentary budget officer has estimated the new sentencing regime will cost the federal government approximately $5 billion, whereas government estimates believe it will cost the government $2 billion.


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