What is a youth record? Does it go away when you turn 18? How do you make it “go away”? In this blog post I tackle the many frequently asked questions about youth records.
What follows is legal information, not legal advice, and should not be relied upon in making a legal decision. If you want legal advice in relation to youth records, consult a criminal lawyer.
What is a youth record?
A youth record includes a history of previous youth convictions and sentences, all reports that have been prepared for the court, and any present charges that have been laid.
What is an access period?
An access period is the time period in which people can view a youth record.
How long is the access period?
It depends on the type of offence and the sentence you received. The following are examples of common access periods:
• Acquitted of the offence: one month
• Charges are dismissed, withdrawn, or a reprimand is given: 2 months
• Absolute discharge: 1 year from the day on which the youth is found guilty
• Conditional discharge, 3 years from the day on which the youth is found guilty
• Summary offence: 3 years from the end of the sentence
• Indictable offence: 5 years from the end of the sentence.
What happens if an offence is committed during the access period?
If someone is convicted of a criminal offence as an adult during the access period, their youth record becomes part of their adult record and is kept forever. If a youth is found guilty of committing a youth offence during the access period, the access period starts to run again based on the new offence.
Significantly, youth records for murder, attempted murder, and aggravated sexual assault involving serious violence may be kept forever. As well, the RCMP keeps a Special Repository where records of very serious offences may be kept for 5 years longer than noted above.
What happens when the access period is over?
Once the access period is over, the youth record is sealed and cannot be used to identify the person as an offender ever. The end of the access period signifies that the person is no longer regarded as having committed any offence. The youth record kept by the police has to be physically destroyed.
However, if a youth has been found guilty of murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, aggravated sexual assault or a serious violent offence, their police record could be kept indefinitely in a special record repository.
Do you have to apply to have a youth record destroyed after the access period is over?
No. The record is automatically destroyed. To confirm that the record has been sealed or destroyed, a youth offender should contact the RCMP Central Repository to obtain a document certifying that the youth record is sealed or destroyed. The same should then be done with the court and local police.
Who can see a youth record?
The following people can see a youth record during the access period: the youth, their lawyer, the police, and the court. Sometimes information about a youth record is given to a person in charge of supervising the youth and for safety purposes. For example, a school principal might see the record. Moreover, some people may be able to view the record if they make a request, such as:
• the victim of the offence,
• police officers for law enforcement purposes,
• the director of a facility where the youth might be serving a sentence,
• a government-appointed child advocate,
• a person required to carry out a criminal record check for employment purposes.
Can a youth record be used against someone if the access period is over?
No. The youth record has been sealed and cannot be used for any purpose. Even if the youth record has not been destroyed, for whatever reason, the information in it cannot be disclosed.
There are, however, special circumstances in which the youth record can be accessed. Even in these circumstances, the record cannot be used against the former youth offender.
Does a youth record require you to say “yes” when a job application asks “Have you ever been convicted of a criminal offence”?
The answer to the question, “have you ever been convicted of a criminal offence”, is “no”. A youth record is not a criminal record and a finding of guilt on a youth record is not the same as a conviction of a criminal offence. This may change, however, if the youth becomes an adult and commits a criminal offence while the access period still exists.