Mandatory Minimum Sentences

A recent event has shown the general public the factors a judge takes into account, in sentencing a criminal offender. Mr. Beech, who had been sentenced by His Honour Mr. Justice Atwood, in Brampton Court of Justice, returned to the court to thank the judge.

First of all, it is very rare that anyone is happy with a sentence that is received, often the accused thinks it is too harsh, while the victims and public think it is too lenient.

When the Mr. Justice Atwood was sentencing Mr. Beech, on gun and drug charges, he took into account the proposed sentences by both the Crown and Defence Counsel, and sentenced Mr. Beech to 90 days jail on weekends – an intermittent sentence. Mr. Justice Atwood took into account the positive steps that Mr. Beech had taken between the crime and sentencing, and the fact that he was a single support parent. Seven years later, Mr. Beech returned to court to thank the judge and to tell the judge the sentence made a great difference in his life. He turned his life around and became a productive member of society.

Of course there are very few offences that have a mandatory minimum: murder, gun offences, impaired driving, that reflects society’s abhorrence. The majority of the offences, the judge looks at the crime, how it was committed, the impact on the victim, mitigating and aggravating factors, such as a previous record, age, challenges (drug, alcohol addiction) The judge also looks at the individual, why this offence was committed, what has changed since the offence -eg drug treatment, school, counselling etc. All of these factors are used to create an appropriate sentence.

The public believes that more mandatory sentences might be a good thing. A major principle in sentencing is rehabilitation – creating a better person for the community. By not taking into account the personal factors of the offender, and the offence, rehabilitative steps may not be conducted prior to sentencing. It will not allow leniency in cases where it is truly needed such as in Mr. Beech’s case. Mr. Beech’s sentence provided both punishment and an opportunity for rehabilitation that he used to better himself and his family, and return to court as a productive member of society.

The full story can be accessed by the web link below.–convicted-man-returns-to-thank-the-judge