YCDO provides legal services on behalf of youths (under 18 years of age) that have been charged with a criminal offence. The services of the YCDO are available to young persons facing charges in the Youth Courts of Calgary and Edmonton. Staff lawyers are appointed for youths who have qualified for assistance through Legal Aid Alberta or who have had a lawyer appointed by a youth court Judge.
If a young person wants to have a lawyer but is unable to hire one, the Youth Justice Court judge must refer the young person to a legal aid program. Should a legal aid program not exist in that area, or if the young person does not qualify for assistance from the legal aid program, the court will appoint a lawyer to represent them. In Alberta, the Attorney General (Alberta Justice) appoints lawyers on behalf of the court. Coincidentally, Legal Aid Alberta administers the program through which the Attorney General appoints lawyers to act for young people. This is known as a Court Ordered Counsel Program.
The YCDO can also assist young persons who may not have criminal charges, but who have hearings for traffic matters of appearances before school attendance boards or expulsion hearings.
The YCDO operates under the supervision of a Senior Counsel, who is hired by and reports to the Legal Aid Alberta President and CEO. Supporting the Senior Counsel, are two Associate Senior Counsel, who are responsible for the day-to-day activities in their respective offices (Edmonton and Calgary). Staff lawyers provide legal assistance to clients. In addition to providing legal assistance, YCDO also employs social workers and youth works who support the lawyers and their clients.
YCDO Duty Counsel
YCDO provides legal assistance to unrepresented youth every day in Youth Justice Court (docket courts) in Edmonton and Calgary. YCDO duty counsel assistance includes:
Providing immediate legal advice
making an application for judicial interim release (bail hearings)
seeking withdrawl of charges
entering of guilty pleas
speaking to sentence
Duty Counsel for Detained Youth
In addition to duty counsel at the courthouse, Legal Aid Alberta also provides duty counsel services specifically for detained persons. This service ensures access to immediate summary legal advice by telephone, for all detained persons in Alberta regardless of their financial situation. (You do not need to qualify for legal aid to access this service.)
YCDO staff lawyers provide this service (including after hours and weekends) to young persons who are detained and in need of immediate legal advice. The primary restriction on this service is that it is for young persons who have been arrested pursuant to the Youth Criminal Justice Act or under provincial legislation only.
Social and Youth Workers
Young persons that have found themselves in legal trouble often have special needs that must be addressed. Unfortunately there are a number of problems, which can include homelessness, addiction, sexual and/or physical abuse, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, and learning disabilities. Unaddressed, these problems often contribute to conflict with the law.
YCDO social and youth workers can assist young persons with finding housing, education or work programs, and counseling. They may advocate for young persons within the Child Welfare, health care, or education systems. Their role is to address the issues underlying the criminal behaviour in order to assist in the young person’s rehabilitation.