The Parent’s Role During a Youth Criminal Offence Trial

October 25, 2018

Having your child face criminal charges is challenging for any family. Parents can have an especially difficult time both accepting that their child is involved in the justice system and also finding the right balancing of supporting their child, maintaining their parental role and acting as their surety.

We take a look at the parent’s role throughout the youth criminal offence process.

Police Questioning

The Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) grants special rights and privileges to young offenders. One of these is the right for young offenders to have their parents present during any police questioning.

This is the child’s right, not the parents. The child can choose to not have their parent present during questioning. However, it is strongly recommended that they have a parent, guardian, or even a lawyer with them. Judges have repeatedly found that children aren’t able to understand their rights in these situations and are particularly vulnerable to police interview tactics.

Hiring The Youth Criminal Defence Lawyer

Typically parents assume the responsibility of finding and hiring a criminal lawyer to defend their child. This can at times lead to some confusion as to whether the young offender lawyer works for the parent or the child. Often the parents will provide the retainer fees and cover the costs associated with their child’s defence, and are active in providing instructions to counsel, the child is the actual client.

The child needs to give their lawyer permission to disclose information to their parents. As well, they have the final say in how they proceed and have the option to exclude their parents from meetings and any involvement.

Most lawyers want parental involvement. They understand that parents have the child’s best interests at heart and often have good insight into the factors and circumstances that have caused their child to come into contact with the justice system. 

Acting as the Surety

A surety is often referred to as a civilian jailor. Often to get released on bail young offenders need a surety who will ensure they follow their bail conditions. In most circumstances, the Crown and Court prefer a parent to act as the surety.

As a surety for your child, your role as a parent significantly changes. If they break conditions of bail the parent is under an obligation to call the police and report their child. It is important for parents to understand that as a surety they are responsible to the courts.

Inform the Lawyer of any Challenges or Relevant Circumstances

It’s important for parents to advise and help counsel understand any difficulties the child faces. As mentioned earlier, parents often have the best insight into the causes and circumstances surrounding their child’s behaviour. Your child’s lawyer needs to be advised of any learning disabilities or mental health issues that can affect the child’s understanding or behaviour.

As well, let the youth criminal lawyer know about any circumstances relevant to the charge. A child facing criminal charges can be overwhelmed and may not always share all relevant information with counsel.

Attending Meetings & Court Dates

Parents, particularly those acting also as sureties, need to ensure their child attends court as required. Failing to attend court could lead to additional charges and could make getting bail in the future more difficult. Failing to attend court charges are difficult to defend against and can lead to a permanent criminal record.

Toronto Youth Criminal Defence Lawyer

A youth criminal record has a measurable impact on your child’s life. It can limit their options and opportunities into early adulthood. Hiring a criminal defence lawyer is one of the best ways to help a child facing youth criminal charges.

William Jaksa is a Toronto criminal defence lawyer with experience helping young offenders. Contact us today for a consultation or questions.

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