Pre-Trial Detention Under the Young Offenders Act: A Study of Urban Courts

4. Judicial Interim Release: What Factors Affect Court Decision-Making? (cont'd)

4. Judicial Interim Release: What Factors Affect Court Decision-Making? (cont'd)

4.3 Multivariate Analysis of Factors Influencing Detention by the Youth Court

The procedures in this section parallel those used for the multivariate analysis of police detention decisions in section 3.3. Logistic regression models were developed based on the bivariate relationships identified in Tables 4.1 and 4.2. The dependent variable is whether the young person is released at his or her judicial interim release proceeding ("not released" versus "released"). As in the last section, if a factor is not significant in any location, it was omitted from Table 4.3. For details of the regression models, see Tables A.9 to A.13 in the Appendix.

Varma (2002) analyzed the decision by the downtown Toronto youth court using regression analysis. The type of charge and Crown consent were significantly associated with the granting of bail. Less serious property and "other" Criminal Code offences were less likely to result in bail than were violent charges, drug charges, and break and enter. Prior record, living arrangements and school attendance were not independently related to release from custody. However, the Crown's earlier decision to contest bail was based on prior convictions and involvement in school.

No other pertinent multivariate analyses of youth court bail decisions could be located. However, the study by Kellough and Wortley (2002) undertaken in two Toronto adult courts provides information on the relative importance of several personal and case characteristics. Of demographic variables, both gender (male) and race (black) were related to receiving a detention order. The socio-legal factor that was significant was having no permanent address. Number of past convictions, the number of current charges and "other negative legal information" also significantly affected the decision to detain or release adult accused in Toronto.

4.3.1 The Influence of Social and Socio-legal Characteristics on Detention by the Youth Court

Gender and race were unrelated to the court release decision. Age was significantly related in all courts combined; 17 year olds were significantly more likely to be held than younger youth. The living arrangements of the young person affected the bail decision in Halifax and Toronto as well as in the sample as a whole.

4.3.2 The Influence of Legal Characteristics on Detention by the Youth Court

The only bail-related factor affecting bail hearing outcomes was whether the case files mentioned primary or secondary grounds or both. The factor was significant in the sample as a whole and in Edmonton. Reverse onus - significant at the bivariate level - was not significant in any court.

As other research has found, the prior record of the accused person [47] was the most consistently influential factor in determining the outcome of bail hearings. The nature of the charges at arrest played a much lesser role. This can be contrasted with the findings on the factors affecting police detention decisions, which seemed to focus more on the alleged offences than on prior convictions. However, it must be realized that the police have already screened the cases that the court deals with, and in their screening they used the nature and seriousness of the charges at arrest as criteria for detention. Thus, in a way, the nature of the charges has been taken into consideration by the previous stage in bail decision-making.

In the sample overall, when young persons were alleged to have committed an indictable offence, they were detained in significantly larger proportions. In addition, a current charge of failure to attend court or failure to comply with release conditions reduced the likelihood of being released in Halifax-Dartmouth and in the total sample.

Thus, the most salient factor that predicted bail decisions was the length or seriousness of the prior record of the young person. Having an indictable current charge was significant when all courts were combined.

Each model was significant at the p<.001 level (Tables A.8 to A.13 in the Appendix). The amount of variance in the dependent variable that is explained by the models (the Nagelkerke r2) varied by court with a range of .33 to .48 (Table 4.3). The data available to this research were moderately successful in explaining judicial interim release decisions made by the youth court. Our inability to collect and quantify factors other than personal and legal characteristics, such as courthouse culture (i.e. the usual practices of judges, Crowns and defence) probably contributes to, and perhaps even explains, the lower than desirable predictive accuracy of the models.


Non-legal (social) factors
  Hal-Dart Tor & Scar Wpg Edm Van & Surrey Total sample
Being female
Age: 12 to 16 years old vs. 17 years old *
Race (black/Aboriginal) na

Socio-legal factors
  Hal-Dart Tor & Scar Wpg Edm Van & Surrey Total sample
Living outside family setting * * *

Legal factors
  Hal-Dart Tor & Scar Wpg Edm Van & Surrey Total sample
Mention of primary or secondary grounds or both *** **
Seriousness - indictable current charge **
Length and seriousness of prior record *** *** *** ***
Bail history or prior custody sentence * *
No legal involvement at arrest vs. some involvement **
Current bail violation * **
Presence or number of outstanding charges na **
Estimate of variance explained by each model (Nagelkerke r2) .37 .35 .33 .48 .38 .37


  • *** p<.001, **p<.01, *p<.05.
  • If the cell is blank, then the factor was not statistically associated with the decision.
  • na = not applicable. The variable was not included in the model because of missing data.

[47] That is, the longer the prior record and the more severe the sentence received in the past increased the likelihood of not being released by the court.

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