A Values and Evidence Approach to Sentencing Purposes and Principles

Appendix 3: Canadian Sentencing Commission (1987) Purpose & Principles of Sentencing

  1. Definitions

    "Sentencing" is the judicial determination of a legal sanction to be imposed on a person found guilty of an offence…

    "Sanction" includes an order or direction … (Note: The definition of sanction is intended to include all sentencing alternatives provided for in the Criminal Code).

  2. Overall Purpose of the Criminal Law

    It is hereby recognized and declared that the enjoyment of peace and security are necessary values of life in society and consistent therewith, the overall purpose of the criminal law is to contribute to the maintenance of a just, peaceful and safe society.

  3. Fundamental Purpose of Sentencing

    It is further recognized and declared that in a free and democratic society peace and security can only be enjoyed through the due application of the principles of fundamental justice. In furtherance of the overall purpose of the criminal law of maintaining a just, peaceful and safe society, the fundamental purpose of sentencing is to preserve the authority of and promote respect for the law through the imposition of just sanctions.

  4. Principles of Sentencing

    Subject to the limitations prescribed by this or any other Act of Parliament, the sentence to be imposed on an offender in a particular case is at the discretion of the court which, in recognition of the inherent limitations on the effectiveness of sanctions and the practical constraints militating against the indiscriminate selection of sanction, shall exercise its discretion assiduously in accordance with the following principles:

    1. The paramount principle governing the determination of a sentence is that the sentence be proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender for the offence.
    2. Second, the emphasis being on the accountability of the offender rather than punishment, a sentence should be the least onerous sanction appropriate in the circumstances and the maximum penalty prescribed for an offence should be imposed only in the most serious cases.
    3. Subject to paragraphs (a) and (b) the court in determining the sentence to be imposed on an offender shall further consider the following:
      1. any relevant aggravating and mitigating circumstances;
      2. a sentence should be consistent with sentences imposed on other offenders for similar offences committed in similar circumstances;
      3. the nature and combined duration of the sentence and any other sentence imposed on the offender should not be excessive;
      4. a term of imprisonment should not be imposed, or its duration determined, solely for the purpose of rehabilitation;
      5. a term of imprisonment should be imposed only:
        1. to protect the public from crimes of violence,
        2. where any other sanction would not sufficiently reflect the gravity of the offence or the repetitive nature of the criminal conduct of an offender, or adequately protect the public or the integrity of the administration of justice,
        3. to penalize an offender for willful non-compliance with the terms of any other sentence that has been imposed on the offender where no other sanction appears adequate to compel compliance.
    4. In applying the principles contained in paragraphs (a), (b), and (c), the court may give consideration to any one or more of the following:
      1. denouncing blameworthy behaviour;
      2. deterring the offender and other persons from committing offences;
      3. separating offenders from society, where necessary;
      4. providing for redress for the harm done to individual victims or to the community;
      5. promoting a sense of responsibility on the part of offenders and providing for opportunities to assist in their rehabilitation as productive and law-abiding members of society.
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