From The Joey Coleman Archives: The Youth Criminal Justice Act and Twitter photos

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This post was originally published on February 19, 2012 on JoeyColeman.ca

Thursday evening, one of the Hamilton police ACTION teams interrupted their dinner at The Baltimore House to break-up what they thought was a drug deal in progress. What looked like a drug deal turned out to be one youth tagging a building with two friends blocking them from view.

A citizen in The Baltimore House took a picture of the officer’s yellow jackets and posted it to Twitter. The focus – that officers interrupted their dinner to stop a crime in progress. In the background the police officers are involved with suspects.

I looked at the photo, found it interesting, briefly glanced to see if any suspects were clearly identifiable confirming they were not and retweeted.
(I’ve intentionally not republished the link to the photo)

Graffiti arrest of three youths

The next morning, the police daily news briefing note included this about the arrests:

On Thursday, February 16th, 2012, at approximately 5:30 p.m., HPS ACTION officers were in the area of King William St. at Hughson St. where they observed three youths, two males and a female, acting suspiciously. On further investigation police revealed the youths were engaged in a mischief. Police allege that one youth was tagging the building while two others stood by and blocked the act from public view. All three youths were arrested.

Yikes… did the photo violate the YCJA?

I paused, quickly went back to the photo, and breathed a sign of relief. The photo did not violate, in my opinion, the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

This photo serves a good reminder to to be mindful of the YCJA at all times. The YCJA prevents the publications of details that could reveal the identity of a youth offender.

Not hard to violate the YCJA, as simple as a school uniform

Something as simple as a school uniform could be an identifying feature that violates the Act. If one of the youth were wearing a Cathedral High School uniform – not uncommon in the downtown core – a blurry photo with this detail could land the publisher (all tweeters are publishers) in hot water.

A distinctive jacket and cap could identify a youth to a community or neighbourhood – violating the YCJA.

A photo of a witness or victim of youth crime could lead people to identify the suspect youth – violating the YCJA.

A yellow flag warning – think YCJA before tweeting or retweeting photos

It’s best to avoid publishing photos of police interacting with any individual who may be under the age of 18.

Media organisations only publish about youth crime after much debate and often the involvement of legal counsel.

The line for violating the YCJA moves based upon circumstances and the alleged offence.

Those of us independent of large newsrooms do not have the benefits of corporate infrastructure and, more importantly, legal protection.

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