While individual deterrence and rehabilitation are the primary objectives in sentencing a first offender, the importance and weight of other factors increase with the seriousness of the crime. This approach respects the fundamental principle of sentencing stated in s. 718.2 of the Criminal Code: “a sentence must be proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender”.
R. v. Brown, 2015 ONCA 361
Similarly, in R. v. Thurairajah, 2008 ONCA 91 (CanLII), which concerned the sentencing of a youthful first offender for a particularly serious sexual assault, the Court of Appeal for Ontario held:
Generally speaking, sentences imposed on young first offenders will stress individual deterrence, where necessary, and rehabilitation. General deterrence will play little, if any, role in fashioning the appropriate sentence in this category of offender in most cases: R. v. Ijam (2007), 2007 ONCA 597 (CanLII), 87 O.R. (3d) 81 at 93-94 (C.A.).
Serious crimes of violence, particularly sexual assaults, do provide an exception to the general rule described above. While all of the principles of sentences remain important, including rehabilitation, for serious crimes involving significant personal violence, the objectives of denunciation and general deterrence gain prominence: R. v. Ijam, supra; R. v. Wells (2000), 2000 SCC 10 (CanLII), 141 C.C.C. (3d) 368 at para. 26 (S.C.C.).
The emphasis to be placed on denunciation and to a lesser extent general deterrence, grows with the seriousness of the particular circumstances surrounding the sexual assault for which an accused, even a young accused, is being sentenced.