Aggravating and Mitigating Factors

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General Principles

Section 718.2 provides a non-exhaustive list of secondary principles and objectives in sentencing.[1] This list include a list of aggravating and mitigating circumstances:

Other sentencing principles
718.2 A court that imposes a sentence shall also take into consideration the following principles:

(a) a sentence should be increased or reduced to account for any relevant aggravating or mitigating circumstances relating to the offence or the offender, and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing,
(i) evidence that the offence was motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression, or on any other similar factor,
(ii) evidence that the offender, in committing the offence, abused the offender’s spouse or common-law partner,
(ii.1) evidence that the offender, in committing the offence, abused a person under the age of eighteen years,
(iii) evidence that the offender, in committing the offence, abused a position of trust or authority in relation to the victim,
(iii.1) evidence that the offence had a significant impact on the victim, considering their age and other personal circumstances, including their health and financial situation,
(iv) evidence that the offence was committed for the benefit of, at the direction of or in association with a criminal organization,
(v) evidence that the offence was a terrorism offence, or
(vi) evidence that the offence was committed while the offender was subject to a conditional sentence order made under section 742.1 or released on parole, statutory release or unescorted temporary absence under the Corrections and Conditional Release Act

shall be deemed to be aggravating circumstances;
1995, c. 22, s. 6; 1997, c. 23, s. 17; 2000, c. 12, s. 95; 2001, c. 32, s. 44(F), c. 41, s. 20; 2005, c. 32, s. 25; 2012, c. 29, s. 2; 2015, c. 13, s. 24, c. 23, s. 16; 2017, c. 13, s. 4.


Take note that certain offences have their own additional factors to consider that are found throughout the Code. For example, fraud offences under s. 380.1.[2]

Absence of Aggravation Does Not Equate to Mitigation and Vice Versa
It is an error of law for a judge to find that the absence of a recognized aggravating factor can be used to mitigate sentence.[3] Thus, it cannot be used as a reason to deviate from a starting point for sentence or consider a sentence on the bottom end of the range of penalties.[4]

Similarly, the absence of mitigation cannot then be used as aggravation warranting a sentence in the upper range of penalty.[5]

Appellate Review
It is an error of law to "over-emphasize" a single factor over all other factors.[6]

  1. R v Nasogaluak, 2010 SCC 6 (CanLII), [2010] 1 SCR 206 at para 40
  2. see Sentencing Fraud
  3. R v SJB, 2018 MBCA 62 (CanLII), at paras 19 to 25
  4. SJB, ibid. at para 19
    R v Alcantara, 2017 ABCA 56 (CanLII) at para 69
    R v BM, 2008 ONCA 645 (CanLII) at para 7
    R v Barrett, 2013 QCCA 1351 (CanLII) at paras 24 to 25
  5. SJB, ibid. at para 19
    Alcantara, supra at para 69
  6. R v M.(C.A.), 1996 CanLII 230 (SCC), [1996] 1 SCR 500 at para 90
    R v W.E., 2010 NLCA 4 (CanLII) at para 26

Factors of Offender and Offence

Prohibited Factors

It is generally considered improper to consider factors such as:

  • comments of the public or media
  • past acquittal or pardons
  • conduct of defence counsel and manner in which the defence was conducted[1]
  • absent a charge for perjury, whether the accused was being honest in the trial proceedings[2]
  • character of the victim or other parties
  • risk of harm while incarcerated
  • costs associated with incarceration[3]

Public Attitudes
Court must at all times be a model of "serene, impartial and exemplary justice." It must keep in mind the perception of the administration of justice by "a reasonable, fair-minded and well-informed member of the public, who is fully knowledgeable about the facts of the case and the applicable legal and constitutional principles". The court should not "react to public clamour or hysteria" or the "visceral and negative reaction to crime and criminals".[4]

  1. R v Bradley, 2008 ONCA 179 (CanLII), [2008] O.J. No. 955 at paras 15-17
  2. R v Charania, 2014 ONSC 1695 (CanLII), at paras 15 to 21
  3. R v Hynes, 2016 NLCA 34 (CanLII) at paras 36 to 37
  4. R v Ellis, 2013 ONSC 908 (CanLII) at para 16 - in context of bail revocation application