When, if ever, should a young person be sentenced an as adult?
Parliament put stringent limitations on the imposition of adult sentences for young persons under section 72 of the Youth Criminal Justice Act. The Crown must prove first that a youth sentence would be of insufficient length to properly hold a young person accountable. It must also prove that the presumption of diminished moral culpability, that all young persons are entitled to by virtue of their age alone, has been rebutted. In brief, this typically requires a sentencing court being satisfied that the young person demonstrated the capability for adult reasoning and sophistication at the time of the commission of the offence.
Rebutting the presumption has proven extremely difficult for the Crown in many reported decisions. In the vast majority of cases, the time span between the commission of the offence and the date of sentencing will not be typically more than a year. This may permit the Crown to introduce evidence about the young person’s current character, intelligence, background and personal circumstances that are not too far removed from how he or she was at the time of the offence. But how can a court even begin to approach this difficult task when the time span between the offence and sentencing is 24 years?