Introducing Sentencing in Canada

AuthorDavid Cole and Julian Roberts
Introducing Sentencing in Canada
David Cole and Julian Roberts
JF was the live-in boyfriend of NC’s mother, MC. NC died as a result of
complications from a blunt force trauma to his abdomen. As a result
of the blow, his intestines ruptured, and their contents leaked into his
abdominal cavity. Over about two days, NC suered from pain, fever,
and lethargy and was vomiting green bile. Ultimately, he died from sep-
sis. Timely medical intervention would have saved NC’s life; however,
MC and JF did not take NC to the hospital until two hours after they
found him dead. In addition to the injury that had caused his death,
NC’s body had numerous other cuts and bruises. Hospital sta alerted
the police.
Both MC and JF were charged with second-degree murder and
held in custody pending trial. Before the trial date, MC pleaded guilty
to the included oence of unlawful act manslaughter for failing to
provide the necessities of life to NC. On a joint submission, she was
sentenced to six years in prison. When credited for time in pretrial cus-
tody, the time remaining to be served was approximately nine months.
Upon her release from prison, MC will be deported.
Just before jury selection on the charge of second-degree murder,
JF also pleaded guilty to the included oence of manslaughter, based
|   
on the unlawful act of failing to provide the necessities of life to NC.
There was no agreement on the appropriate sentence. The Crown
alleged three aggravating factors that required an evidentiary hearing.
After hearing evidence, the judge ruled that she was satisf‌ied beyond a
reasonable doubt that JF had assaulted NC on numerous occasions, in
the guise of misguided discipline, causing injuries to his head, face, ears,
neck, back, arms, and legs. However, the judge decided that she could
not be satisf‌ied beyond a reasonable doubt that JF had delivered the
blow to the abdomen that resulted in NC’s death.
What is the appropriate sentencing response to such a serious crime?
What kinds of mitigating and aggravating factors should be considered?
Should the judge reduce the sentence to reect the guilty plea? (at
would save the time and costs of a trial and “reward” the accused for
accepting responsibility.) If a sentence reduction is awarded, how large
should it be? Must a severe sentence be imposed in order to send a
message to other oenders? Imprisonment is an inevitable sentence,
but for how long?
Sentencing and the parole system are criticized by many people
and understood by few. is lack of understanding may seem strange;
after all, the process appears straightforward enough. When an accused
Given the vast range of circumstances in which the oence of manslaughter can be
committed, Parliament has not specif‌ied any minimum mandatory penalty of imprison-
ment. Technically, the sentencing judge would have available a disposition that could
vary from a suspended sentence (no time in custody) to life imprisonment. In light
of the severity of this oence, and given sentencing precedents for roughly similar
oences, any sentence less than a mid-range penitentiary-length sentence would be a
signif‌icant error in principle.
Taking all of these factors into account, the judge imposed a sentence of nine years with
credit of six years (slightly more than .:, to ref‌lect the dicult circumstances of the
time served to date; see discussion in Chapter ), as well as several ancillary orders. An
edited version of the court’s Reasons for Sentence in this case, including the sentence
imposed, may be found in Appendix A.
Research over the past forty years has documented many public misperceptions of sen-
tencing. See Kim Varma & Voula Marinos, “Three Decades of Public Attitudes Research
on Crime and Punishment in Canada” ()  Canadian Journal of Criminology
and Criminal Justice ; Julian V Roberts, Nicole Crutcher & Paul Verbrugge, “Public
Attitudes to Sentencing in Canada: Exploring Recent Findings” ()  Canadian
Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice .

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT