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Ontario judges critical of mandatory minimum sentencing

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When someone is arrested and charged with a crime in North York, the presumption is that he or she will receive an appropriate sentence if he or she is convicted. Unfortunately, when a judge is forced to enforce a mandatory minimum sentence, there is a possibility that someone will be sent to prison for far longer than he or she really should, at least based on the circumstances leading to his or her arrest. Though mandatory minimum sentences may make the criminal justice system more predictable, that should not be a primary consideration when dealing with criminal offenders.

Instead, members of parliament should be focused on whether the defendant’s rights are protected. Each defendant is granted specific rights in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, one of which is the right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. Section 12 guarantees that someone will not spend 10 years in prison for a minor offense, but defendants in six cases appearing before Ontario’s Court of Appeal argue that minimum sentences in gun crimes do just that.

And it is not just these defendants who are upset by their convictions. There are a number of people within the criminal justice system, namely judges, who are upset by minimum sentences. It is expected that if the constitutionality of mandatory minimum sentences in gun crime cases is upheld, the matter will be appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.

There is no reason for a judge to say that a sentence is “fundamentally unfair, outrageous, abhorrent and intolerable,” but is still forced to order it. Until minimum sentences are declared unconstitutional, however, there will likely be judges who object to the sentences they are required to hand down.

Source: National Post, “Ontario court to rule on constitutionality of minimum sentences for gun crimes after man faced three years in jail for posing with firearm,” Andrew Seymour, 11 Nov. 2013

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