Thank you for the opportunity to present to the committee regarding Bill C-4.
Statistics Canada does not take a position on the proposed amendments in the bill. The presentation we have prepared contains our most recent data on youth criminal justice. All data sources used are clearly indicated as are any pertinent data notes. Distributed for your consideration are the most recent Juristats related to youth crime, youth courts, and youth corrections. Furthermore, in July, Statistics Canada will be releasing new crime and youth court data, which may also be of assistance during your examination of Bill C-4. My colleagues Ms. Mia Dauvergne, Ms. Rebecca Kong, and Mr. Craig Grimes will help to answer any questions.
Using data received from police services across Canada, we can examine trends in youth accused of police-reported crimes. Over the last ten years, there has been a substantial shift in the trends regarding youth aged 12 to 17 accused by police. The rate of youth charged has dropped while the rate of youth cleared by other means has increased. Cleared by other means includes, for example, judicial sanctions and police discretion.
Crime can be classified into two categories: violent and non-violent. Most crime committed by youth is non-violent. This has been a consistent trend over the last ten years. In 2008, seven in ten youth accused of crime had committed a non-violent offence. The rate of non-violent crime committed by youth in Canada has been decreasing over the last ten years, while the rate of violent crime has remained relatively stable. As the youth crime rate is predominantly driven by non-violent crimes, the overall crime rate as reported by police services in Canada has also dropped over the last ten years.
The top ten offences accounted for 93% of all police-reported offences committed by youth aged 12 to 17 in 2008. Seven of the ten shown are classified as non-violent crimes. The most common police-reported offence committed by youth in 2008 was theft under $5,000. This along with mischief and assault level one accounted for about half of all police-reported offences committed by youth in 2008.
I will now turn to what happens once charges laid by police move into Canada's youth courts. In 2006-07, theft was the most common type of case completed in youth court, followed by assault level one and break-and-enters. The composition of cases being heard in youth court is changing. We are seeing fewer cases involving less serious offences, such as possession of stolen property, and an increase in more serious offences, such as uttering threats and weapons offences. Since the introduction of the YCJA there has been a 26% decline in the cases completed in youth court. While there is variability in the magnitude of the decline in caseload, all provinces and territories have experienced a decline since the YCJA.
In addition to the decrease in the total number of cases, there has also been a decrease in the number of guilty cases stemming from youth courts. While the decline began in the early 1990s, the introduction of the YCJA coincides with a decrease in both the total number of cases completed and the number of guilty cases.
Of the approximately 56,500 cases heard in youth courts in Canada in 2006-07, 60% resulted in a guilty finding. For those cases where the youth was found guilty, the most frequent sentence was probation. In recent years the proportion of violent cases resulting in a custodial sentence has been declining. In 2006-07, these cases were at their lowest levels in 15 years. Since the first year of the YCJA, all provinces and territories have experienced large decreases in both the numbers and proportions of guilty youth cases receiving custodial sentences. The use of custody has also decreased across all offence categories.
The average length of custody for all youth cases in Canada was 72 days, compared with 124 for adults. When split by violent and non-violent offences, we see that there is a difference in the length of the custodial sentence imposed: 117 days for violent cases versus 54 days for non-violent cases.
By far, the average length of custody was the longest for homicides, at 1,084 days, which is almost three years, followed by attempted murder and other crimes against persons. On any given day in 2008-09, about 900 youths aged 12 to 17 were in sentence custody, which was down 8% from the previous year and down 42% from 2003-04. In fact, the number has been declining annually since 1995-96.
Looking at slide ten, we see that the youth in remand outnumber those in sentence custody. In 2008-09, 52% of all young people held in custody on any given day were in remand.
Youth continue to spend fairly short periods of time in remand. Four of the eight jurisdictions that provided data in 2008-09 indicated that youth spent, as a median number of days, one week or less in custody. Since the implementation of the YCJA, the median number of days spent in remand has varied across jurisdictions. Overall, in 2008-09, 54% of youth released from remand had spent one week or less in remand. This proportion has fluctuated between 53% and 56% since 2004-05.
For youth there are operationally two levels of custody: open custody, which is less restrictive, such as halfway houses; and closed custody, which are secured facilities and would include detention centres. Among the reporting jurisdictions, the trend in time spent in open and secure custody has fluctuated.
Once again, thank you for the opportunity to present to the committee. This ends my presentation.