The issue of sentencing for manslaughter in cases of intimate relationships
was originally brought up at the meeting of Federal-Provincial-Territorial
(FPT) Deputy Ministers of Justice in June 2001 in St. Andrews, New
Brunswick. Prince Edward Island raised the issue because of the public
call for stiffer penalties in response to recent sentencing decisions
in P.E.I., most notably in the case of R. v. Sheppard. This
subject was added to the agenda for the FPT meeting of Ministers of
Justice in September 2001 at White Point, Nova Scotia.
The Ministers subsequently decided that the FPT Working Group on Sentencing
should investigate this subject and report back in the fall of 2002.
A subgroup was formed, composed of members of the FPT Sentencing Working
Group and other federal Justice officials from the Research and Statistics
Division and the Family, Children and Youth Section (which included
members of the FPT Working Group on Spousal Abuse).
A preliminary report was tabled at the FPT meeting of Deputy Ministers
of June 4-5, 2002, in Charlevoix, Quebec. That report included only
the case law analysis; the final report has now been completed.
The investigation led to five recommendations:
Recommendation No. 1 - It is recommended that Ministers
encourage the National Judicial Institute to continue to develop,
deliver and evaluate the Social Context Program on family violence.
Recommendation No. 2 - It is recommended that research
be undertaken on the subject of plea-resolutions respecting intimate
partner homicides; furthermore, that Crown prosecutors and others
who are working within the criminal justice system make every
effort to enhance awareness and understanding in relation to
the sentencing process in cases of domestic violence; and finally,
that jurisdictions make resource material available to Crown
prosecutors on the dynamics of family violence.
Recommendation No. 3 - It is recommended that the Federal
Department of Justice re-open discussions based on its 1998 consultation
document entitled Reforming Criminal Code Defences: Provocation,
Self-Defence, and Defence of Property.
Recommendation No. 4 - It is recommended that jurisdictions
work together in developing and designing approaches to public
and justice system education concerning sentencing in domestic
Recommendation No. 5 - It is recommended that Canadian
research be undertaken to look more closely at sentencing patterns
in case law respecting intimate partner homicide and, in particular,
the factors judges give most weight to in rendering their decisions;
furthermore, that jurisdictions, working in conjunction with
the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, inquire into the
feasibility of developing a coordinated, user-friendly data collection
system to aid in the analysis of domestic violence sentences.