Does A Youth Criminal Lawyer Serve The Parent Or The Child?

September 19, 2018

Usually, a youth criminal defence lawyer is hired by a parent of the child who is facing charges. At times this can lead to some confusion with parents as to whether it is them, or their child, that is the actual client.

The child is the client. Most lawyers who work with young offenders will want the parents involved in the important decisions that must be made, but only the child is the client.  While a lawyers’ first priority is always the best interest of his client, the parents have an important role.

The Initial Interaction

It is rare for the parent not to be involved in their child’s criminal matter before the courts in Toronto. Young offenders usually want their parents involved from the very initial meeting their chosen criminal lawyer.

The initial meetings are an opportunity for the parents to understand the scope of the charges and potential consequences that are faced. A trial strategy will be discussed and important information about the criminal court process will be explained. It’s important for the lawyer to work transparently with the parents, but they are only the child’s lawyer.

Acting as a Surety

In young offender bail hearings, a parent is almost always the best surety to purpose to the courts. The surety is responsible for the behaviour of the accused while on bail.

Courts do favour giving young offenders bail, but there is no guarantee. If the judge determines there to be too high of a risk to society, of reoffending, or breaking the terms of bail, bail will be denied. A youth criminal lawyer can help the surety prepare a release plan that will minimize these risks. A well-structured and strong release plan coupled with a competent surety improves the likelihood of obtaining a reasonable bail.

Acting as a Witness

In some case, depending on the nature of the allegations, a young offender’s parent may also be a witness for the prosecution. This could possibly complicate matters if the parent is both a potential witness against their child and the child’s surety.

While this can create a dilemma for the parent, they have to testify if subpoenaed by the prosecution. There is no parent-child equivalent of spousal privilege.

Under the Canada Evidence Act, a spouse is not required to disclose communications with their spouse made during their marriage. But, a parent can be asked to disclose communications with their child.


Although defence lawyers usually involve the parents in the important decisions that must be made, they are obligated to take their instruction from the child. The child is the client, and as such, is the decision-maker.

The lawyer will always try to guide the youth to make the best decision. It is their duty to lay out their options and help them understand these options and consequences as they navigate through the criminal justice system.

However, so long as the child is at least 12 years old, they can make any decision they want. For example, a child can choose to go to court even if the youth lawyer believes it is the worst decision for them. As long as the child is willing to stick by this decision and commit to it in writing neither the parent nor the lawyer can deny them.

Hire a Youth Criminal Defence Lawyer in Toronto

The best youth criminal defence lawyers in Toronto will try to work cooperatively with the family – but understand that their first priority and obligation is to the child.

William Jaksa is experienced in youth criminal law and will help your child understand their options and guide them so they can make the best possible decisions. Book a consultation today.

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