Sentencing Options and Sentencing Trends

AuthorAndrew A Reid
Sentencing Options and Sentencing
Andrew A Reid
At sentencing, judges may choose from a wide array of sentencing
options. e alternatives include discharges, a variety of pecuniary
penalties, dierent forms of supervision in the community, and sev-
eral forms of imprisonment. Although legislation places some limita-
tions on the manner in which options may be applied, judges exercise
considerable discretion when determining sentence. Sanctions may be
applied alone or may be combined. Minimum punishments are pre-
scribed for relatively few oences, and maximum penalties exceed actual
sentencing outcomes in almost all cases. is chapter documents the
Section .() of the Criminal Code, RSC , c C- [Criminal Code], recognizes
the presence of degrees of punishment and arms that “[w]here an enactment pre-
scribes dierent degrees or kinds of punishment in respect of an oence, the punish-
ment to be imposed is, subject to the limitations prescribed in the enactment, in the
discretion of the court that convicts a person who commits the oence.
Current sentencing options are identif‌ied in the Criminal Code, ss – and s .
Section .() of the Criminal Code states that “[w]here an enactment prescribes a
punishment in respect of an oence, the punishment to be imposed is, subject to the
limitations prescribed in the enactment, in the discretion of the court that convicts a
person who commits the oence, but no punishment is a minimum punishment unless
it is declared to be a minimum punishment.”
Sentencing Options and Sentencing Trends | 
sentencing options and recent sentencing trends in Canada. e goal is
to provide a snapshot of current sentencing outcomes and to highlight
recent changes. Such a task, however, poses considerable challenges.
First, the complexity of the sentencing process hinders the ability to
accurately report data. As noted by Roberts and Birkenmayer:
[O]enders may be convicted of more than a single oence. A single
incident of break and enter may result in the laying of four or ve
criminal charges, which in turn may result in several dispositions.
us, oenders may face multiple charges, and may receive multiple
sentences for a single conviction.
In addition, sentences often include multiple elements. Judges not only
decide on which sanction(s) to employ; they must also determine the
appropriate magnitude (e.g., duration or amount, number of condi-
tions) of the sanction(s). Although a concerted eort has been made to
disaggregate the data presented in this chapter, many important pat-
terns and trends remain hidden because of this inherent complexity.
Second, sentencing options are not static they evolve along with
public (and government) sentiments on crime and justice. Some sanc-
tions, such as whipping and the death penalty, once played a prominent
role in Canada’s penal regime but have since been abolished. Others,
such as the conditional sentence of imprisonment, have been intro-
duced relatively recently. Even for those options that have been available
throughout much of Canada’s history, there have been notable changes
Julian V Roberts & Andrew Birkenmayer, “Sentencing in Canada: Recent Statistical
Trends” ()  Canadian Journal of Criminology  at .
The death penalty was used from Canada’s early history to . While it was de facto
abolished in , it was not until  when Bill C-, An Act to amend the Criminal
Code in relation to the punishment for murder and other serious oences, st Sess,
th Parl, , ocially removed it as a sentencing option.
The conditional sentence of imprisonment was introduced in  with the enact-
ment of Bill C-, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (Sentencing) and other Acts in
consequence thereof, st Sess, th Parl,  (assented to  July , proclaimed

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