The Canadian criminal justice system, like any other justice system, is governed by a set of intricate, ever-evolving rules and regulations that are meant to maintain order amongst its citizens. There are many forms of punishment an offender is liable to once convicted in a court of law. Other than in the event that there is a mandatory minimum sentence, the judge is at liberty to choose whatever sentence he sees fit for the crime and offender at hand. It’s a given that you can only be convicted if you plead guilty or are found guilty.
Purpose of sentencing
• To hinder the offender from committing any more crimes
• To prevent those in society from committing crimes to start with
• To protect the society from the danger an offender potentially poses
• To punish the offender
• To rehabilitate the offender
• To offer some form of compensation to victims
Types of sentences
A Conditional Discharge is granted to an offender that has been found guilty but is not convicted of their crimes. Instead, the offender is given a probation order entailing conditions that if not followed to the letter, could lead to conviction. The charge remains in the offender’s record for three years after which is automatically discharged. This charge does not earn them a criminal record.
An Absolute Discharge is similar to a conditional discharge on the most part. Aside from the fact that no probation order is made and the charge stays on the offender’s record for a year before it is discarded, there is no difference between the two.
A Probation Order is issued by the court to an offender after which a probation officer looks out to see if the offender upholds it. Typically, it consists of a set of rules and regulations they are supposed to follow or a set of guidelines they ought to complete within a stipulated time. A breach of a probation order could result in a criminal offence charge issued by the probation officer in charge. Suspended sentences and conditional discharges are always supplemented with a probation order. They normally last three years maximum.
A Suspended Sentence mirrors a conditional discharge. The only difference is that it stays on the offender’s record unless they requested for a pardon.
A Fine is a sum of money that the offender is required to pay to the court within a specified amount of time. It can be given in addition to a minimum jail time or instead of it. This is dependent on the offence committed. Along with the fine, they are also expected to pay a victim fine surcharge.
Imprisonment involves serving time in jail. The length of a sentence varies with the type of crime committed. Once a conviction is made, it can only be removed from an offender’s record by a pardon. Where time is served depends on the length of stay. Shorter sentences are mostly spent at the county jail or provincial reformatory while longer ones (more than two years) are spent in a federal penitentiary.