At What Age Are Children Held Accountable for Their Crimes?

In Canada there is a defence of infancy allowed for children under the age of 12, should they commit a criminal offence. However, in cases where the crime is considered serious in nature, such as assault causing bodily injury, sexual assault, or murder, then Child Protection Services or some other children’s agency often gets involved, even though there might not be any type of formal charges brought against the child.

Once your child reaches the age of 12, they can be held accountable for their criminal activities. The law recognizes minors aged 12 to 17, can be charged for the same offences as if they were committed by an adult. However, there are key differences in how the police, Crown, and courts handle youth criminal offences, which are outlined in the YCJA (Youth Criminal Justice Act).

Can My Child Be Charged as an Adult?

In very rare cases, and crimes of the most serious nature, the Crown can request of the Court to charge the minor as an adult, so long as the child was at least 14 at the time the crime was committed. The types of crimes this could apply to are normally those where, if the child was an adult, and convicted and found guilty of the offence, would receive a sentence that would result in an imprisonment period of more than two years.

Again, these types of proceedings are reserved for murder and manslaughter offences, very violent offences, serious sexual assaults, and other such crimes. While the YCJA does allow the minor to be sentenced as an adult, the trail is still conducted in Youth Courts.

Am I Responsible to Pay for Property My Child Destroys, Steals, or Damages?

Parents do not have to pay for their child’s actions where property was destroyed, stolen, or damaged, unless the courts order the parents to make restitution to the injured party. However, the injured party does have the right to file a claim in civil court to seek restitution, should the Youth Criminal Courts not order restitution.

If My Child Is Convicted and Found Guilty Will They Have a Criminal Record?

Yes, your child will have a criminal record if convicted and found guilty of the criminal offence. Their youth criminal record can remain open for years after completion of their sentence, not the date of their conviction. This can have an effect on their ability to find employment and travel.

The length of time the record remains opens depends on whether they were convicted for an indictable offence or a summary conviction. For indicatable offences, the record can be kept open for a minimum of five years and with summary convictions, a minimum of three years.

Provided your child does not commit any further criminal offences, you can petition the court to seal their youth criminal record after reaching the age of 18 and fulfilling their sentence and minimum waiting period.

Ideally, it is always in your best interests and the best interests of your child to consult with a youth criminal defence lawyer in Toronto, like myself, Rishma Gupta, no matter the seriousness of the offence or with assistance in sealing your child’s youth criminal record. Call my law office at 416-844-8467 now to schedule an initial consultation appointment.


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