Supreme Court of Canada affirms ‘starting-point’ approach to criminal sentencing

The Supreme Court of Canada says it is appropriate for appeal courts to set starting-point benchmarks for sentencing offenders in criminal cases.

The high court ruling came Friday in the cases of two men who received stiffer penalties when Alberta’s Court of Appeal ruled that convictions for wholesale fentanyl trafficking should carry a prison sentence of at least nine years.

As a result of the Alberta decision, Cameron O’Lynn Parranto was sentenced to a total of 14 years on various counts including trafficking in fentanyl, while in another case Patrick Felix received 10 years behind bars.

The appeal court noted in the Felix decision that fentanyl trafficking had created a crisis in Alberta and across the country.

In its decision today, a majority of the Supreme Court judges concluded starting points are a permissible form of sentencing guidance from appeal courts, noting sentencing is “one of the most delicate stages of the criminal justice process.”

Parranto and Felix had criticized the starting-point approach and argued that sentencing ranges were a preferable means of providing guidance to judges.

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