SERVICES PROVIDED BY THE YOUTH CRIMINAL DEFENCE OFFICE
The Youth Criminal Defence office provides several services to young persons in conflict with the law:
Both the Calgary and Edmonton offices provide a 24-hour telephone service that operates throughout the year to provide legal services to young persons who are detained and in need of immediate legal advice. The primary restriction on the service is that it is for young persons detained pursuant to the Young Offenders Act or the Protection of Children Involved in Prostitution Act. In common with the remainder of the operation, the service is restricted to the geographic boundaries of Edmonton and Calgary.
The two offices provide legal assistance to unrepresented youth on a daily basis in Youth Court docket courts in Edmonton and Calgary. The assistance includes: providing immediate legal advice, making application for judicial interim release, seeking withdrawal of charges, entry of guilty pleas and speaking to sentence.
In the year ending March 31, 2002, YCDO lawyers made some 9,526 duty counsel appearances.
As with the private Bar, the Legal Aid Society issues certificates to the YCDO authorizing staff lawyers to represent young persons in trial and appellate Courts in Edmonton and Calgary. The legal representation includes providing legal advice, making applications for judicial interim release before the Youth Court and the Court of Queen’s Bench, entering pleas, conducting trials and other hearings (such as applications for transfer to adult court or to adult facilities and reviews of dispositions) and speaking to sentence. Staff lawyers also advance and respond to appeals. The majority are sentence appeals to the Court of Appeal.
In the year ending March 31, 2002, YCDO lawyers were assigned to act in over 3,572 cases.
Social and Youth Worker Services
The YCDO operates for the benefit of young people, and young persons as clients have special needs that must be addressed. The problems are many and various. Homelessness, poverty, addiction, sexual and/or physical abuse, fetal alcohol syndrome, and learning disabilities are all common and can contribute to conflict with the law.
Whenever possible, the social and youth workers employed by the YCDO prepare release and sentencing plans for lawyers to present to the Court. Generally, they advocate the use of community rather than custodial resources to promote rehabilitation and to deal with problems contributing to criminality. The social and youth workers may also advocate for service for the young person. These may be sought from the child welfare, education or health systems.
Given the nature of their work, lawyers and other staff at the YCDO develop an expertise in the unique problems facing young people and the law relating to them. This knowledge brings with it a responsibility to help develop resources that are needed in the community. The YCDO advocates for such resources and, where feasible, co- operates with other agencies to create them.