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Ontario top court strikes down mandatory minimum sentences for firearm possession

The Court of Appeal for Ontario [official website] ruled Tuesday that Section 95 of the Criminal Code [text], which established a three-year minimum sentence [text, PDF] for the possession of an unlicensed firearm and a five-year minimum sentence [text, PDF] for the possession of an unlicensed firearm for repeat offenders, is unconstitutional. The court found that both minimums were in violation of Section 12 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms [text], which prohibits cruel and unusual treatment or punishment. The court did not want to punish violators of the license law without considering the blameworthiness of individual offenders. The court supplied hypothetical situations where the minimum sentence would be "grossly disproportionate" to the offense.

In January the Provincial Court of British Columbia [official website] found the sentencing laws to be arbitrary and fundamentally unjust [JURIST report]. The Ontario Superior Court [official website] struck down [JURIST report] the law in February 2012. The minimum sentences were included in the Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Penalties Bill [JURIST report] introduced by former justice minister Vic Toews [official profile] in May 2006.

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