A Values and Evidence Approach to Sentencing Purposes and Principles

Other purposes of sentencing

Sentencing can – and sometimes does – do other things as well. The most obvious – but relatively rare – benefit from sentencing has been contained in the Criminal Code since 1996: “to provide reparations for harm done to victims or the community.” Obviously, most of those being sentenced are not easily capable of providing reparations. Redress or reparations for victims or the community was in the 1984 (Liberal) and 1992 (Conservative) bill as well. The Daubney committee in 1988 went into more detail on this than other proposals.

Another purpose is made very clear in the Youth Criminal Justice Act. It suggests that sentences should “promote” rehabilitation and reintegration “thereby contributing to the long-term protection of the public.”

Few would argue that there is a lot that a sentencing judge can do to make society better. But there is a value to realistic aspirational statements such as this.

Just as judges are currently required, (especially when sentencing Aboriginal offenders) to search for alternatives to imprisonment, it would appear to be sensible – and consistent with our history and Canadian values about those who are before the courts – to require judges to look for opportunities to make things better (or to lessen the harm that resulted from the criminal offence). Hence it would be reasonable to continue to allow – or perhaps to require – judges to look for ways of lessening the lasting harm done to victims (through whatever mechanisms have been shown to be effective). And it makes sense for judges to consider choices that might reduce the harm (e.g., of imprisonment) so that those who have committed offences might be reintegrated peacefully into society.Footnote 35

“Doing good” at sentencing is not incompatible with proportionality. It simply has to be done within the limits of a proportional sentence.

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