Dalhousie Law Journal


sentencing, criminal law, criminal justice system, courts, offender, Canada, Young Offenders Act


Sentencing is traditionally regarded as one of the most difficult and challenging functions of the criminal justice system. In arriving at the appropriate sanction to be imposed upon an offender, a court must reconcile the principles and objectives of the criminal law with the criminal act committed, the circumstances surrounding its commission, and the character of the offender who committed it. The court must, with the guidance of a few abstract, broadly philosophical, and often contradictory principles of sentencing, decide upon a sanction which is appropriate in the very concrete and factually specific case within which it is presented. This onerous task is even more difficult when the particular offender is a young person whose understanding of responsibility is less than complete, whose character has yet to be fully developed, and whose need for guidance is consequently greater than that of an adult offender. It is clear that there are special circumstances to be considered when sentencing young offenders. Unfortunately, an examination of current young offender legislation in Canada reveals that these special considerations are being used to justify a greater degree of state interference in dealing with young offenders than law and morality would permit in the adult context. In short the Young Offenders Act' is being interpreted and applied so as to permit an interventionist approach to sentencing young people.

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