Sorry for Getting Caught—Lack of Remorse and Sentencing

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Sorry for Getting Caught—Lack of Remorse and Sentencing

Evidence of an offender’s remorse, as for instance by a plea of guilty, will often justify reduction of a sentence below the level which would otherwise be appropriate for the offence committed.

However, a court must be very careful in treating lack of remorse as an aggravating circumstance. A sincere expression of remorse can be an important mitigating factor and can reduce the sentence that might otherwise be imposed. Lack of remorse is not, ordinarily, an aggravating circumstance. It should only be considered aggravating in very unusual circumstances such as where the accused’s attitude toward the crime demonstrates a substantial likelihood of future dangerousness.

R. v. Anderson (1992), 1992 CanLII 6002 (BC CA); See R. v. Valentini (1999), 43 O.R. (3d) 178 (C.A.), at paras. 80-85. 

Considering an offender’s lack of remorse as an aggravating factor in sentencing constitutes an error in principle.  

See R. v. Valentini (1999), 43 O.R. (3d) 178 (C.A.). 

In R. v. Rockey, the Court of Appeal for Ontario held that while the sentencing judge did not expressly identify the appellant’s lack of remorse as an aggravating factor, there was no need for the Court to mention the appellant’s lack of remorse if it was to have no impact on the sentence.  So, while the sentencing judge was not explicit in his use of the appellant’s lack of remorse, the sentencing judge was, nonetheless, using it as an aggravating factor. 

R. v. Rockey, 2016 ONCA 891 at para 31.

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