Mandatory minimum exceptions not the answer: Friedberg
OTTAWA – The Liberal government is studying the idea of building some wiggle room into the controversial convention of mandatory minimum sentences to avoid unduly harsh penalties in cases that don't warrant them.
The examination is part of a federal review of changes to the criminal justice system and sentencing reforms ushered in by the previous Conservative government, a frequent champion of setting minimum penalties for crimes involving drugs, guns and sexual exploitation.
A report prepared for the Justice Department says "a politically viable strategy'' is to craft exemptions to mandatory minimums that kick in when certain criteria are met, as seen in several other countries.
For instance, relief from a mandatory minimum could be granted in the case of a juvenile offender, an early guilty plea or when an accused provides substantial help to the state, says the report by criminologist Yvon Dandurand of the University of the Fraser Valley in British Columbia.
"The main argument in favour of creating exceptions to the application of mandatory minimum penalties remains the need to avoid unjust and arbitrary punishment,'' says the report, completed in March and recently disclosed under the Access to Information Act.