Factors Affecting the Referral of Young Offenders for Medical and Psychological Assessment under the Young Offenders Act

By Jack, Linsey A.; Ogloff, James R. P. | Canadian Journal of Criminology, July 1997 | Go to article overview

Factors Affecting the Referral of Young Offenders for Medical and Psychological Assessment under the Young Offenders Act


Jack, Linsey A., Ogloff, James R. P., Canadian Journal of Criminology


L'article 13(1) de la Loi sur les jeunes contrevenants (LJC) donne un apercu assez imprecis des circonstances quijustifieraient le renvoi d'un jeune pour examen medical et psychologique. Les juges sont donc obliges de prendre ces decisions sans avoir une directive specifique, utilisant des facteurs decisionnels qui demeurent a peu pres inconnus. Les auteurs ont fouille les 190 dossiers (95 dossiers de jeunes renvoyes pour examen et 95 qui ne l'avaient pas ete) du Tribunal de la jeunesse de Vancouver en Colombie-Britannique pour y extraire des donnees demographiques et criminologiques sur les deux types de cas (renvoyes et non renuoyes). Les delinquants renvoyes pour examen ont tendance a etre des blancs et a etre accuses de plusieurs delits, au moins un de ceusx-ci etant un acte de violence contre la personne. Les delinquants renuoyes pour examen ont beaucoup de problemes psychologiques et ils viennent a l'attention du tribunal a un age plus precoce que les delinquants non renvoyes pour examen. Les delinquants que l'on percoit comme etant des mauvais risques (de recidive) sont plus souvent renuoyes pour examen. Les amendements a l'article 13 (en vertu du projet de loi C-37) renforcent le principe selon lequel le danger de recidive justify le renvoie pour examen, ce qui aura comme resultat que le systeme de justice pour les jeunes pourrait devenir surcharge.

Introduction

Although the Young Offenders Act (YOA), introduced in 1984, was designed to improve the balance between the young person's rights and the protection of society (Corrado 1992), the Act has proven to be controversial (Leschied and Gendreau 1994). Researchers have commented extensively on the YOA, focussing on a number of central issues -- for example, the lack of stated priority in the principles of the YOA, procedural problems relating to the clarity of guidelines within the Act, and the resulting discretion afforded to juvenile justice decision-makers (Doob and Beaulieu 1992; Parker, Casburn and Turnbull 1981; Reid and Reitsma-Street 1984). Other critics have suggested that the YOA undermines the objectives of rehabilitation, treatment, and the individual needs of the young person (e.g., Leschied and Gendreau 1986). In a similar vein, Archambault (1991: ix) commented that

...while the Act was intended to provide a better

balance between the protection and interest of society and the rights

and needs of young persons. it strikes me, on the one hand.

that the "justice" and "legal" objectives of the Act are being

effectively realized while. on the other hand, the "needs" and

"treatment" aspects thereof leave much to be desired.

In fact, a minor portion of the YOA directly addresses the needs of the young offender. Only section 13, for example, deals with the medical and psychological assessment of young offenders. Section 13 assessments may be ordered: (a) to consider an application to transfer a youth to ordinary court; (b) to determine whether a young person is suffering from a mental disorder and is unfit to stand trial; or (c) to make or review a disposition under the Act (see s. (2)(a) to s. (2)(e)). The latter reason most commonly precipitates an order for assessment (Awed 1991).

Since section 13 is, for young offenders, an important point of access between the legal and mental health systems, the decision process at this juncture is especially critical. Legal decision-makers must differentiate among young offenders and determine which individuals should be referred for a mental health assessment. This process is complicated by the imprecise language and lack of guidance of the YOA. Section 13 will be described below.

Section 13: Medical and psychological reports

Under section 13(1) of the YOA, a youth court judge has the power to order the medical and psychological examination of a young person who is before the courts. This subsection states:

13. …

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