In a narrow 5-4 ruling, the court said that it is the responsibility of the Crown to prove young offenders convicted of violent crimes should be sentenced as adult. Before the ruling, the onus rested on teens to prove they should be dealt with as minors.
Friday’s ruling, however, does not bar judges from handing adult sentences to offenders between 14 and 17 years old. But it says that it is now up to the Crown to prove why a stricter sentence is appropriate.
Since 2002, it has been possible to sentence teenagers convicted of murder, aggravated sexual assault or other serious crimes as adults. The provision in question in Friday’s ruling compelled those convicted of such crimes to convince the courts they should not be sentenced as adults.
The court said young offenders should be presumed less morally culpable for their crimes than adults. It said the reverse onus is a breach of justice and of young offenders’ Charter rights.