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The Young Offenders Act

By Josie Shaw
Hope Secondary School
Hope, British Columbia

A young male, 13 years of age, is proven guilty to the charge of first-degree murder. He is let go with a slap on the wrist and his identity concealed. In the same city, another young male, 23 years of age is also proven guilty to the charge of first-degree murder. This man gets a penalty of eight years in jail and his identity, as well as a photograph are given out to the world.


Both of these people were proven guilty to the charge of first-degree murder, so should they not both get the same penalty? Well, a slap on the wrist is a little bit of an exaggeration, but the 13 year old male doesn't get much of a penalty for his crime. Why? Because of a little thing called the Young Offenders Act.

The Young Offenders Act protects people under the age of eighteen from having their identity and photograph printed in the newspapers or shown on T.V. if they commit a crime. Everybody over the age of nine knows (or should know) right from wrong. So why, if they commit a crime that would put an adult in jail/prison, are they protected if they are under the age of eighteen? Should it not be communities that get protection from violent people, of any age?

The communities that have young murderers, rapists, etc., among them should know who these people are. By concealing the information about a young offender it is putting everybody else in possible danger while protecting the guilty young offenders from humiliation, being outcast, and from being known as a criminal.

Young offenders seem to have more rights than the innocent by-standers who may very well be the next victim. Criminals, no matter how young or old, are still criminals, and should be punished for their crimes and have their identities known to the public, not let off the hook somewhat easily and protected because they happen to be under the age of eighteen. The innocent communities and victims should get the protection, and not the criminals.

It makes me sick to know that young people can commit a serious, or maybe not so serious crime, and be protected. It makes me feel unsafe in my own community to think that there may be a young murderer, rapist, etc., living in my town, and I can't be warned because of the Young Offenders Act which protects that young criminal from having their identity given out.

The Young Offenders Act also goes against the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in two ways. It goes against the section on Legal Rights, number 7, which states, "Everybody has the right to life, liberty, and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice". Where is my security if I cannot be warned a rapist lives in my community because the rapist is under the age of eighteen? The Young Offenders Act also goes against the section on Equality and Rights, number 15(1), which states, "Every individual is equal before and under the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability". Protecting young offenders because they are under the age of eighteen is discrimination based on age.