Purpose and Principles of Sentencing

There are various theories in our legal system as to what is, and how to decide upon a ‘just’ sentence. This dynamic area of social discourse and the law is addressed in sections 718 to 749 of The Criminal Code of Canada, RSC 1985, c C-46 (PDF).

Section 718

Section 718 is the main section of the Criminal Code of Canada sets out the purpose of sentencing and what factors a Court must balance when considering sentencing. 

Take time now to download and read through section 718 of the Criminal Code as this provides you with a key overview of the purpose of Sentencing.

Section 718 of the Criminal Code (PDF)

It is important for you to understand section 718 of the Criminal Code as this sets out the test that the Court must consider when assessing the Gladue principles.  Section 718 states that the fundamental purpose of sentencing is to contribute, along with crime prevention initiatives, to respect for the law and the maintenance of a just, peaceful and safe society by imposing just sanctions that have one or more of the following objectives:

(a) to denounce unlawful conduct;

(b) to deter the offender and other persons from committing offences;

(c) to separate offenders from society, where necessary;

(d) to assist in rehabilitating offenders;

(e) to provide reparations for harm done to victims or to the community; and

(f) to promote a sense of responsibility in offenders, and acknowledgment of the harm done to victims and to the community.

When you are speaking of sentence in court, you need to address each of these points and how your suggested options deals with each of these points.  And also remember as set out in the Criminal Code that one of the main fundamental sentencing principles is "718.1 A sentence must be proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the degree of the responsibility of the offender."