In the wake of the recent decision by Justice Bellefontaine of the Ontario Court of Justice (read full decision here) who found that the three year mandatory minimum sentence for trafficking a firearm violated s. 12 of the Charter, there has been renewed interest in the appropriateness, efficacy and fairness of mandatory minimum sentences.
Following the decision, I was quoted in a piece by Jessica Hume, writing in the London Free Press:
“Mandatory minimums are profoundly unfair and, as this judge found, unconstitutional,” Solomon Friedman, a lawyer specializing in firearms law, told QMI Agency. “We need a rethink of how we think about crimes involving firearms.
“We’re so gun-shy that we insist on this draconian response to every offence even remotely related to a firearm.”
I try to explain that sentencing judges have a very different vantage point than legislators:
Friedman explained that unlike government, judges hear trials in their entirety and can decide on a sentence not just based on the crime, but on the circumstances of the individual accused and on precedents set at previous trials.
“Laws make terrible memorials,” Friedman said. “When you try to remember a loss by passing a law, you end up ensnaring people who shouldn’t be caught up and you do absolutely nothing to prevent the tragedy that first motivated the law.”