SCC ruling won't bring flood of lighter sentences

Apr 22, 2015 By Matthew Friedberg

The Supreme Court of Canada’s ruling against a law that sets out mandatory minimums for gun crimes is a fair and just decision, but it likely won’t result in a flood of convicted people receiving lighter sentences for these offences, says Toronto criminal lawyer Matthew Friedberg. 

“The ruling is an implicit recognition of the conventional wisdom in legal circles that mandatory minimums don’t accomplish what they were intended to do,” he tells “This decision is a victory for people of the view that mandatory minimums shouldn’t be imposed and that judicial discretion should be exercised.”

Friedberg emphasizes, however, that the decision won’t bring major changes to the way most convicted persons are sentenced because the SCC noted that the ranges that were part of the law are fair in most cases that come before the courts.

“In practicality, I don’t think much is going to change in terms of quantum of jail time for most gun cases,” he says. “I think the Supreme Court was clear that the (no longer) mandatory minimum ranges are appropriate in most instances. The drug dealer on the street who is caught possessing a handgun is still likley going to get three years and not two. It will allow some room for argument in the future though."

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