Understanding Cases of Failure to Comply with A Disposition

Section II: Longitudinal Youth Court Data

Part 6: Summary

The data presented in this report suggests that, under the YOA, close to half (46%) of these FTC cases had no other criminal convictions. Furthermore, a majority of these “FTC only” cases had one single FTC conviction. In the cases with criminal convictions, the majority (47%) were property offences – generally evenly distributed among break and enters, theft over/other thefts, theft unders and mischief/possession of stolen property. The 28% of cases that involved violence tended to be evenly split between more serious violence and minor assaults. Given the nature of these cases there appeared to be a relatively high use of custody. Roughly 29% of the cases with only one FTC conviction received custody and in cases with two or more FTC convictions half received a custodial sentence. In fact, sentences for multiple FTC convictions were somewhat harsher than the sentences for cases with only one FTC conviction and one other type of conviction. Half of the cases with two or more FTC convictions received custody compared to 42% of cases with one FTC conviction and one other type of conviction.

Pulis (2003) [23] conducted a study investigating FTC convictions from a sample of cases (N=69) from a court in southwestern Ontario found that the most commonly breached condition was “failure to keep the peace and be of good behaviour” (breached in 52% of the cases). While that breach could occur automatically with the commission of an offence, that did not appear to happen. Instead if the offence was more serious (e.g. violence) it was more likely that the youth would also receive a conviction for failing to keep the peace and be of good behaviour. This could be evidence of judges responding to the seriousness of the offence and attempting to further denunciate the offence with a second conviction involving the failed condition. While it was not possible to obtain the failed conditions in this current data set, there was some evidence that if there were multiple FTC convictions within a case, there was more likely to be a conviction for a criminal offence (see, for example, Table 11 or Appendix A Table A11 for row percents).

After “failing to keep the peace”, Pulis (2003) found that the next most common breaches were “obey the rules and discipline of the home or approved facility” (13% of the cases had a FTC conviction involving that rule) followed by “reside at an address approved by a youth worker” and “report to a youth worker as required by the court” (12% for each). The only significant gender difference that emerged was that a larger proportion of girls were convicted of failing to comply with the condition of “reside at an address approved by a youth worker”. In addition, a larger proportion of younger youths and girls were convicted of failing to comply with the condition of “obey the rules and disciple of the home or approved facility”. It is not clear from the analysis whether this means that there is something specific about gender and age that relates to more girls and younger youths being convicted of those conditions or whether it is simply that those groups are more likely to be given those conditions in the first place. If boys and older youths are less likely to be given those conditions, obviously there would not be many convictions for failing to comply with those conditions. One would need case processing data that had the number of conditions of probation initially given and then one could examine which, if any, were later breached. Pulis's (2003) study was only able to look at a snapshot of FTC cases [24].

When looking at the criminal history of these cases, the majority (43%) had three or more previous cases in youth court before the current FTC conviction. Close to half of the sample had a violent offence as the most serious conviction ever. Once again, however, the violence was split between more serious violence and minor assaults. Looking more recently, only 25% had a violent conviction just before the FTC conviction (again this was split between serious violence and minor assaults). The majority (38%), most recently, were convicted of a property offence. Clearly one may argue that because of the criminal record these FTC cases should result in “harsher” sentences and a relatively high use of custody. However, it is unclear whether the current sentence should predominately be driven by the criminal record.

In investigating the factors related to the type of sentence given for the FTC conviction, this report found that by far the most significant factor was the previous sentence. The current FTC sentence was driven, largely, by the previous sentence – the more severe the previous sentence was, the more severe the current sentence for FTC was. Matarazzo et al. (2002) have also demonstrated that finding with a sample of cases in youth court.

The high use of custody for these relatively minor offences then, places the youth at serious risk of receiving a more severe sentence if he/she ever comes back into youth court, no matter what the offence is. So, for example, you could have a youth convicted of a shoplifting offence who receives six months probation. Imagine the youth breaches one of the conditions (e.g. non-association order) and comes back into youth court – the data here suggest that this youth would be in jeopardy of receiving a custodial sentence. Once breaking the threshold into custody, this youth is unlikely to ever receive a non-custodial sentence again.

There was also an interesting relationship between the most serious, most recent, conviction and the current FTC sentence. If the most serious and most recent conviction was an administration of justice offence, the youth was significantly more likely to receive a custodial sentence than if the previous conviction was any other type of offence. Even cases with a violent conviction were less likely to receive custody than cases with an administration of justice offence. Given that administrative offences typically involve violating some sort of order (reside someplace, non-association order, curfew, etc) it is unclear if those types of infractions are more serious – and therefore more deserving of custody – than cases that involve serious violence.

There was some provincial variation when examining these cases. Quebec always tended to reserve court for more serious cases than did the other provinces. However, Quebec also has one of the lowest uses of custody compared to all the other provinces. BC, on the other hand, tended to have many minor cases (indeed, roughly three quarters of the FTC cases only had FTC convictions) but used custody much more than other provinces.

  • [23] Pulis, J. (2003). A critical analysis of probation for young offenders in Canada. Unpublished MA thesis, University of Guelph. Guelph, Ontario, Canada.
  • [24] Part of Pulis's study (2003) also looked at a snapshot of probation cases to examine the conditions placed on youths. There were no clear gender differences in that sample (108 cases). Instead the number and types of probation conditions were more clearly associated with the nature of the offence. The more serious the offence, the longer the probation sentence and the more conditions were placed on youths. In a multiple regression analysis examining factors that predicted the number of conditions place on youths, the only two significant predictors were the type of offence and whether or not there was a second offence within the case (typically the second offence was an administration of justice offence). The more serious the offence, or the presence of a second offence within the case, resulted in more probation conditions being placed on the youth. Gender, age, whether or not probation was the most serious disposition the youth received, and the length of the probation sentence were not significant predictors of the number of conditions placed on youths (page 38).

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