Saturday, January 5, 2013

Is YCJA Censorship Subject to Abuse ?

    The Youth Criminal Justice Act prohibits the publication of the name of persons charged and seals the court file from public scrutiny.  It is suggested by policy makers that this is desirable because young persons on account of their tender age, lack of experience and immaturity ought not to be stigmatized and disadvantaged by criminal prosecution.  Not only is the name of offenders shielded from publication by the YCJA but the names of the alleged victims are also shieded by some other public policy or statute depending on the alleged crime.  Accordingly, allegations involving sexual assault involving YCJA offenders are subject to even greater censorship.

     How sound is this public policy ?  In Toronto we have four major newspapers.  The primary source of their information regarding crime is the local police service or services.  The local police services are now all equipped with specialized media personnel - whose job it is to provide news to the media. 

     In cases involving YCJA offenders and sexual assault the media and the public are at the absolute mercy of the police with respect to the truth and accuracy of the story.  The media is prohibited from publishing the name of both the offender and victims.  If such a case does not come to trial the public has no way of knowing the facts.  The censorship imposed by the YCJA and public policy makes it possible for police services to charge a young person and then publize both the alleged attacks and the arrest.  Since the YCJA also prohibits the release of prosecution records and documents it is possible for a person to be "charged" and the fact of that "charge" publicized when in fact the person in question was not charged at all.  An improper spelling of the charged person's name or the wrong date of birth would mean that the person was not charged at all.  At the end of the day no one would ever know.

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