Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Judges should be slow to exceed the sentence sought by the Crown and do so only after giving an opportunity for submissions

R. v. Beardy, 2014 MBCA 23:

[6]                          For a guilty plea to be valid, an accused must understand the nature and consequences of the plea prior to entering it (see s. 606(1.1)(b)(ii) of the Criminal Code).  This includes an understanding of the Crown’s position on sentence.  Typically, the Crown’s position will represent the upper limit of any sentence an accused can expect to receive from the sentencing judge.  While the Crown’s position cannot bind the discretion of the sentencing judge, judges should be slow to go over the recommended upper limit of the sentence or “jump” the sentence without first giving counsel an opportunity to address any concerns.  In the same way that a sentencing judge, who is thinking of “jumping” a joint submission, should inform counsel of his/her concerns and provide them with an opportunity to present further submissions or authority, so should a judge who is contemplating sentencing an accused to a sentence that is much harsher than what the Crown is recommending (see R. v. Hagen, 2011 ONCA 749 (CanLII), 2011 ONCA 749 at paras. 4-5 (QL); R. v. Menary (W.), 2012 ONCA 706 (CanLII), 2012 ONCA 706 at paras. 3-4, 298 O.A.C. 108; and R. v. Poorsarwar, 2012 ONCA 799 (CanLII), 2012 ONCA 799 at para. 4 (QL)).  It is the fair thing to do.

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