The YCJA contains a Declaration of Principles that provides a framework for how the law is to be interpreted. The YCJA has a clear emphasis on the needs of youth, as well as public protection.
The YCJA is intended to protect the public by:
- Holding youth accountable
- Promoting rehabilitation and reintegration
- Preventing crime by addressing the root cause of the criminal behaviour
The youth justice system must be separate from the adult system, and must emphasise:
- Rehabilitation and reintegration
- Fair and proportionate accountability
- Enhanced procedural protection
- Timely intervention and prompt enforcement
Measures taken against youth convicted of crimes should reinforce respect of societal values and encourage repair of harm done to victims and community. To be effective, measures should be meaningful to the young person and involve parents, family, the community, and other agencies where appropriate. Finally, measures should respect gender, ethnic, cultural, and linguistic differences of youth and respond to the needs of Indigenous youth and of youth with special requirements.
Further special considerations for youth criminal justice proceedings include special guarantees of young people’s rights and freedoms, including the right to be heard and participate in the process. They also include a special consideration for victims and focus on treating victims with courtesy, compassion, and respect for their dignity and privacy. Victims are entitled to information about the proceedings and the opportunity to participate. Parents are encouraged to participate in proceedings involving their children and to help address the behaviour.