Thursday, August 8, 2013

Joint submissions on sentence

R. v. A.B., 2013 NUCJ 15 deals with joint sentencing submissions:

[49] The Court's discretion on sentence is constrained by the terms of a joint submission. Jurisprudence from the Court of Appeal provides that a sentencing court must not lightly interfere with the terms of a negotiated settlement that has resulted in the entry of guilty pleas. The Court cannot exceed the joint recommendation made by the lawyers in this case unless the proposed sentence brings the administration of the criminal justice system into disrepute.

[50] For sound public policy reasons, the criminal justice system seeks to encourage the settlement of serious criminal allegations without trial. This saves much time and public expense. The state does not then have to prove the allegations underlying the guilty plea. Victims are spared the torment of having to relive their ordeal in a public forum.

[51] In exchange for the guilty plea and waiver of their right to trial, an accused defendant often negotiates with the prosecuting authorities for a lenient position on sentence. The joint submission on sentence is the end result of this process of negotiation. The joint submission is the "lubricant" that allows the cumbersome machinery of the criminal justice system to process cases with reasonable dispatch and efficiency.

[52] The jurisprudence from the Court of Appeal recognizes that an accused defendant must have some reasonable assurance that the end product of these negotiations will be respected by a sentencing court. Without this assurance, persons accused of crime would insist on a trial in every case. The cost to the system of justice would be immense. The emotional cost to victims of crime would also be correspondingly very high.

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