Criminal Code (R.S.C., 1985, c. C-46)

Act current to 2014-09-29 and last amended on 2014-09-19. Previous Versions

Purpose and Principles of Sentencing

Marginal note:Purpose

 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.

  • R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 718;
  • R.S., 1985, c. 27 (1st Supp.), s. 155;
  • 1995, c. 22, s. 6.
Marginal note:Objectives — offences against children

 When a court imposes a sentence for an offence that involved the abuse of a person under the age of eighteen years, it shall give primary consideration to the objectives of denunciation and deterrence of such conduct.

  • 2005, c. 32, s. 24.
Marginal note:Objectives — offence against peace officer or other justice system participant

 When a court imposes a sentence for an offence under subsection 270(1), section 270.01 or 270.02 or paragraph 423.1(1)(b), the court shall give primary consideration to the objectives of denunciation and deterrence of the conduct that forms the basis of the offence.

  • 2009, c. 22, s. 18.
Marginal note:Fundamental principle

 A sentence must be proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender.

  • R.S., 1985, c. 27 (1st Supp.), s. 156;
  • 1995, c. 22, s. 6.
Marginal note:Other sentencing principles

 A court that imposes a sentence shall also take into consideration the following principles:

  • (a) a sentence should be increased or reduced to account for any relevant aggravating or mitigating circumstances relating to the offence or the offender, and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing,

    • (i) evidence that the offence was motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, or any other similar factor,

    • (ii) evidence that the offender, in committing the offence, abused the offender’s spouse or common-law partner,

    • (ii.1) evidence that the offender, in committing the offence, abused a person under the age of eighteen years,

    • (iii) evidence that the offender, in committing the offence, abused a position of trust or authority in relation to the victim,

    • (iii.1) evidence that the offence had a significant impact on the victim, considering their age and other personal circumstances, including their health and financial situation,

    • (iv) evidence that the offence was committed for the benefit of, at the direction of or in association with a criminal organization, or

    • (v) evidence that the offence was a terrorism offence

    shall be deemed to be aggravating circumstances;

  • (b) a sentence should be similar to sentences imposed on similar offenders for similar offences committed in similar circumstances;

  • (c) where consecutive sentences are imposed, the combined sentence should not be unduly long or harsh;

  • (d) an offender should not be deprived of liberty, if less restrictive sanctions may be appropriate in the circumstances; and

  • (e) all available sanctions other than imprisonment that are reasonable in the circumstances should be considered for all offenders, with particular attention to the circumstances of aboriginal offenders.

  • 1995, c. 22, s. 6;
  • 1997, c. 23, s. 17;
  • 2000, c. 12, s. 95;
  • 2001, c. 32, s. 44(F), c. 41, s. 20;
  • 2005, c. 32, s. 25;
  • 2012, c. 29, s. 2.