The Frequency of a Crime in a Local Community — a Relevant Factor in Sentencing

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The Frequency of a Crime in a Local Community — a Relevant Factor in Sentencing

Local Situation

It may be appropriate for a judge to consider the fact that a type of offence occurs with particular frequency in a given region as a relevant factor in determining a just and appropriate sentence.

R. v. Lacasse, 2015 SCC 64,
[2015] 3 S.C.R. 1089 at para 13.

Even though the Criminal Code applies everywhere in the country, local characteristics in a given region may explain certain differences in the sentences imposed on offenders by the courts.

In R. v. M. (C.A.), [1996] 1 S.C.R. 500 Lamer C.J. stated the following:

The determination of a just and appropriate sentence is a delicate art which attempts to balance carefully the societal goals of sentencing against the moral blameworthiness of the offender and the circumstances of the offence, while at all times taking into account the needs and current conditions of and in the community. [Emphasis added]

Considerations of procedural fairness will generally require that a judge who intends to attach weight to the local reality and to the frequency of a crime in a given region offer the parties an opportunity to make representations on the subject

R. v. Lacasse, 2015 SCC 64, [2015] 3 S.C.R. 1089at para 94.

The frequency of impaired driving offences, for instance, is something that can be determined objectively by consulting the court rolls. In short, it is public information that is known and uncontroversial.

It is well established in our law that judges can take judicial notice of the contexts in which they perform the duties of their offices:

R. v. Lacasseat para 95; R. v. Z.Z., 2013 QCCA 1498, at para. 68 (CanLII); R. v. Hernandez, 2009 BCCA 546, 277 B.C.A.C. 120, at para. 29.

Trial judges and provincial courts of appeal are in the best position to know the particular circumstances in their jurisdictions.

R. v.MacDougall, [1998] 3 S.C.R. 45, at para. 63, per McLachlin J. [speaking of the ability of these courts to determine whether a delay to trial is unreasonable for the purposes of section 11(b) of the Charter].

The fact that trial judges normally preside in or near the communities that have borne the consequences of the crimes in question is one of the factors in support of deferring to their sentencing decisions, and it is not necessary for them to have knowledge of the situations in other judicial districts. They are accordingly aware of the frequency of various offences in their communities, and for that reason in particular, they are in the best position to determine what weight to attach to this and to assess properly the particular combination of sentencing objectives that is just and appropriate for the protection of the community

R. v. Lacasseat para 102; R. v. Pelletier, 2008 QCCA 1616, at para. 3 (CanLII).

Stuart O'Connell - http://www.leadersinlaw.ca/
Stuart is Lead Counsel at O’Connell Law Group (http://www.leadersinlaw.ca/) and works in association with the Firm.
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