JustFacts

Firearm-Related Offences Subject to a Mandatory Minimum Penalty

December 2016

Research and Statistics Division

This fact sheet presents information on criminal court cases where the most serious offence in the case is a firearm-related offence subject to a mandatory minimum penalty.  Data was obtained through a request to the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics (CCJS) and covers the period between 2000/2001 and 2013/2014. The legislation related to the firearm offences subject to an MMP is the Tackling Violent Crime Act, enacted in 2008. Most firearms offences with an MMP were originally given mandatory minimum sentences in the Firearms Act, which was implemented in 1995.  The Tackling Violent Crime Act amended the minimums and maximums for certain offences.

The number of casesFootnote 1 with a firearm-related offence remained relatively steady

Between 2000/2001 and 2013/2014, the number of cases with a firearm-related offence subject to an MMP remained relatively steady throughout the study period.

  • In 2000/2001, there were 589 cases with a firearm offence as the most serious offence in the case. This number dropped slightly in 2001/2002 (552) and then increased to a peak of 684 cases in 2004/2005 (a 16% increase from 2000/2001). 
  • There were also peaks in 2006/2007 (679), 2007/2008 (676) and the highest number of cases was in 2010/2011 (690). 
  • The final year (2013/2014) had the lowest number of cases since the early 2000’s, with 563 cases; a decrease of 16% from the previous year (667).  This decrease in number of cases coincides with the Safe Streets and Communities Act (2012).

Over the 14 year period, cases with a firearm-related offence subject to an MMP as the most serious offence in the case comprised 24% of all cases with an MMP, however the proportion dropped significantly over time.  In 2000/2001, cases with a firearm-related offence comprised 32% of all MMP cases and dropped to 15% by 2013/2014. This decrease was fairly steady with two significant declines around the time of the enactment of the Tackling Violent Crime Act (2008) and the Safe Streets and Communities Act (2012).Footnote 2 The decrease in the relative proportion of firearm-related offences to all MMP offences can be at least partially explained by the fact that new MMP offences were added, so the number of overall MMP offences increased while the number of firearm-related offences stayed steady thereby accounting for a smaller proportion of all MMP offences.

Eight offences comprise the majority of all cases with a firearm-related offence

Although there are 18 firearm-related Criminal Code offences that were included in the dataset, eight offences made up 95% of cases in the category over the study period.  These include s.85 –  use of a firearm in the commission of an offence (35%), s.344 – robbery, use of a firearm (27%), s.100 – possession of a firearm for the purpose of trafficking (7%), s. 95 – possession of a prohibited/restricted weapon (7%), s.244 – discharging a firearm with intent (6%), s.239 – attempt to commit murder (5%), s.99 – weapons trafficking (5%) and s. 103 – importing/exporting firearms (2%).

The proportion of cases with a guilty decision remained relatively steady

Over the course of the study period, the proportion of cases with a guilty decision fluctuated between 42% and 51%. Withdrawn decisions were the second most common decision, comprising between 30% and 43% of cases.  Between fiscal years 2011/2012 and 2013/2014, the proportion of withdrawn decisions decreased from 42% to 33% and the proportion of guilty decisions increased from 42% (the lowest proportion over the study period) to 47%. This increase in guilty decisions coincides with the Safe Streets and Communities Act (2012).

The proportion of cases with a guilty decision receiving a custody sentence remained relatively steady

For firearm-related offences subject to an MMP, custody was the most likely sentence for cases with a finding of guilt during the period 2000/20001 to 2013/2014.  The proportion of guilty cases sentenced to custody was higher than 82% in every fiscal year. The greatest increase in the proportion of cases receiving a custody sentence was between 2012/2013 (84%) and 2013/2014 (95%), which coincides with the Safe Streets and Communities Act (2012). There was a corresponding decrease in cases receiving probation (12% to 3%).

The length of custody sentences varied over time

The median custodial sentence length varied over the course of the study period. There was a 67% increase from 2000/2001 (729 days) to a 14 year high in 2003/2004 (1,095 days) followed by a decrease and bottoming out in 2005/2006 (370 days).  The median then increased again to 970 days in 2011/2012, around the time of the Safe Streets and Communities Act (2012), before dropping in the final two fiscal years (729 days and 840 days respectively).

While there is variation over the 14 year period, the highest proportion of cases fell within the 4+ year range, with an average of 30% of all cases over the course of the study period. The remaining cases tended to fall within the 1 to 2 year range and the 2 to 4 year range  (22% and 19% respectively; See Chart below). The proportion of cases in the 4+ year range decreased substantially over time, from 40% in 2000/2001 to 26% in 2013/2014, while the proportion of cases in the 2 to 4 year range increased from 10% to 28%.

Percentage of all cases with a firearm-related offence subject to an MMP as the most serious offence in the case, by custody range.

Percentage of all cases with a firearm-related offence subject to an MMP as the most serious offence in the case, by custody range, décrit ci-dessous

Note: The vertical lines indicate the years the Tackling Violent Crime Act (2008 – blue line) and the Safe Streets and Communities Act (2012 – red line) were enacted.

Text version: Percentage of all cases with a firearm-related offence subject to an MMP as the most serious offence in the case, by custody range

A horizontal time-series chart illustrates custodial sentence ranges for criminal court cases in which the most serious offence in the case was a firearm-related offence subject to a mandatory minimum penalty, and for which the offender received a custody sentence. The Y axis is measured in percentage of cases and increases in increments of 5 from zero to 45%. The X axis lists every fiscal year from 2000/2001 to 2013/2014.

There are 8 custody ranges that run along the X axis. They are; 0 to 29 days, 30 to 59 days, 60 to 89 days, 90 to 179 days, 180 to 364 days, 365 to 729 days, 730 to 1,459 days and 1,460 days and above.  The custody range with the highest percentage of cases over time is the 1,460 days and above range. The percentage of cases in this range decreased from 40% in 2000/2001 to 26% in 2013/2014 day range. The custody ranges with the lowest percentage of cases over time are the 30 to 59 day range and the 60 to 89 day range, with both remained at 5% of cases or below over the 14 years. The percentage of cases in the 730 to 1,459 day range shows the largest increase, from 10% in 2000/2001 to 28% in 2013/2014. There are two vertical lines on the chart that represent the years the following legislation was enacted: the Tackling Violent Crime Act (2008) which is represented with a blue line at fiscal year 2008/2009, and the Safe Streets and Communities Act (2012) which is represented by a red line at 2012/2013.

Time to case resolution increased

The median case processing time (how long it takes for a case to be resolved) has been steadily increasing from a low of 153 days in 2000/2001 to a high of 311 days in 2013/2014 (+103%). In comparison, the time to case resolution for all adult criminal court cases was 123 days in 2013/2014, which has remained stable since 2005/2006 (the earliest publicly available data) when the median was 124 days.Footnote 3

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