Different Circumstances Mean Different Sentences for Co-Accused

August 5th, 2015 by

By Michelle Stephenson

A recent decision by the Ontario Court of Appeal has confirmed that the fact that there are multiple offenders in a criminal case, does not mean they will necessarily receive the same, or similar, sentences.

In R. v. Lin, an appeal of a sentencing decision followed a guilty plea for possession of marijuana for the purposes of trafficking. The appeal stemmed from the wide disparity in sentences received by the co-accused. The Appellant in this case received 12 months incarceration followed by 12 months probation; in contrast, other participants in the grow-operation received only shorter, conditional sentences.

The appeal was based on the parity principle, which requires that in the interests of fairness, similar sentences should be imposed on similar offenders for similar offences.

However, the appeal was dismissed as the Court confirmed that the parity principle does not necessarily require multiple co-accused to receive the same sentence. Individual factors, including culpability of the accused and degree of involvement in the crime, continue to be significant in sentencing.

The parity principle requires only that the different sentences be understandable when examined together. In this case, the differences in the co-accused and their level of involvement led to very different sentences.

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