Thursday, December 22, 2011

Trespassing: What is the law?

 Scenario by Qasim Syed, PLE Team Volunteer
Legal Info by JFCY

Jordan is 14 years old and has recently moved to a new school. He meets with a fellow peer in his class named James. James introduces himself to Jordan and invites him to tag along for lunch. James introduces Jordan to his friends who are a bit older.

The group discusses a prank they are attempting to pull. Jordan does not like the sound of the idea, but being new to the school, he would love the opportunity to make more friends and be the cool kid. The kids discuss that they will go to a factory and attempt to sneak in.

Later in the evening James and the group of kids go to the front of the factory. They see signs emphasizing the consequences of trespassing. Some of the signs are big and they say, “Trespassers will be prosecuted.” As the kids walk in Jordan becomes very nervous and contemplates leaving, however he doesn’t.

As the kids walk inside and observe the place they hear a security guard yelling and running towards them. When they look out the window they see two police cars. With nowhere to run or hide, Jordan wonders the consequences of trespassing. What will become of them? What will he tell his parents?  Will he be in trouble?

Trespassing:The Law in Ontario

Ontario has a law that makes trespassing illegal.  A trespasser is someone who is using land that doesn’t belong to them without permission of the person or people who are responsible for and who control that land.  Jordan and these youth are trespassing according to Ontario law, because posted signs make it clear that the factory shouldn’t be accessed without permission.

They could be charged by the police.  The offence is outlined in the Trespass to Property Act and is called “enter premise where entry prohibited”.  They could be given a ticket to pay a fine, or the officer could give them a “summons”, requiring the youth to attend court to deal with the charge.  If a youth under age 16 is given a summons, his/her parents will be notified of the charge by the police.  Either way (summons or ticket), the youth have the right to dispute the charge in court.  They should talk to a lawyer about their individual situation.

Since these youth are breaking provincial law, the section of the Provincial Offences Act that applies to people under 16 would apply if they were charged. (This is different from being charged with a criminal offence, where the Youth Criminal Justice Act applies to people under 18.)  

There are a number of differences between the treatment of adults who are charged with offences and young people who are charged with offences.  One is that young peoples' identities are protected from publication.  Another is a limit on punishments: even if the fine for a provincial offence is higher than $1000, the maximum person under 16 can be fined is $1000.

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