On April 18, the Yukon Court of Appeal removed the one-year mandatory minimum sentence associated with the crime of sexual exploitation, finding it in violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The ruling was sparked by an appeal brought forward by a Yukon man — referred to as “E.O.” — who was sentenced in 2018 for the month-long sexual exploitation in 2015 of his then 17-year-old niece.
If your gut reaction to that decision is, like this journalist’s, one of incredulous outrage at removing a minimum sentence for such a disgusting crime, your feelings are both understandable and reasonable.
Your gut reaction would also be, like this journalist’s was, wrong — mandatory minimum sentences simply do not work, and removing them is a step toward a more just legal system for all.
Michael Spratt, an Ottawa-based defence attorney and co-host of the legal podcast The Docket, says minimum sentencing “has long been the subject of intense scrutiny.”
Mandatory minimums remove decision-making power from judges and disproportionately affect “marginalized, racialized, Indigenous groups,” which has led to a “disproportionate” number of these populations being held in custody. That’s had “damning negative legal consequences,” he says.
According to criminal defence lawyer Michael Spratt, mandatory minimums remove decision-making power from judges and disproportionately affect ‘marginalized, racialized, Indigenous groups.’ (Marc-André Cossette/CBC)
Mandatory minimums deprive the court of the nuance it needs to bring to its decision making, Spratt says. For example, a child could be abducted from a bad situation with one parent by the other, or a child could be abducted for nefarious reasons; a minimum sentence for abduction treats both cases the same.
Spratt says mandatory minimums also work as a “perverse incentive,” resulting in more wrongful convictions, and “clog” the court system because accused innocent persons are more likely to take a plea deal to avoid mandatory minimum sentencing, and those who are guilty don’t have much incentive to plead as such.
Read Lori Fox’s full article: CBC