Effect of Criminal Records in Sentencing
An offender who has demonstrated an exemplary life since a prior offence and demonstrates remorse may be considered for a reduced sentence and reduce the need for specific deterrence.
It is an error in principle to determine a sentence based only on the sentence from a previous conviction. It is a "relevant consideration" but the sentence must be driven by the facts of the case. It is relevant to whether "the offence is uncharacteristic for the offender...whether the offender demonstrates a continuing attitude of disobedience of the law".
A person who has received a discharge can still be considered a "first time offender".
Over-weighing Criminal Record
The record "should not be given so much weight such that it becomes more influential than the circumstances of the offence".
It is important that the prior criminal record not be over-emphasized such that it amounts "to a re-sentencing of the accused for the previous offence(s)".
This is largely codified in s. 725:
725. (1) In determining the sentence, a court
- (a) shall consider, if it is possible and appropriate to do so, any other offences of which the offender was found guilty by the same court, and shall determine the sentence to be imposed for each of those offences;
- (b) shall consider, if the Attorney General and the offender consent, any outstanding charges against the offender to which the offender consents to plead guilty and pleads guilty, if the court has jurisdiction to try those charges, and shall determine the sentence to be imposed for each charge unless the court is of the opinion that a separate prosecution for the other offence is necessary in the public interest;
- (b.1) shall consider any outstanding charges against the offender, unless the court is of the opinion that a separate prosecution for one or more of the other offences is necessary in the public interest, subject to the following conditions:
- (i) the Attorney General and the offender consent,
- (ii) the court has jurisdiction to try each charge,
- (iii) each charge has been described in open court,
- (iv) the offender has agreed with the facts asserted in the description of each charge, and
- (v) the offender has acknowledged having committed the offence described in each charge; and
- (c) may consider any facts forming part of the circumstances of the offence that could constitute the basis for a separate charge.
Attorney General’s consent
(1.1) For the purpose of paragraphs (1)(b) and (b.1), the Attorney General shall take the public interest into account before consenting.
No further proceedings
(2) The court shall, on the information or indictment, note
- (a) any outstanding charges considered in determining the sentence under paragraph (1)(b.1), and
- (b) any facts considered in determining the sentence under paragraph (1)(c),
and no further proceedings may be taken with respect to any offence described in those charges or disclosed by those facts unless the conviction for the offence of which the offender has been found guilty is set aside or quashed on appeal.
R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 725; R.S., 1985, c. 27 (1st Supp.), s. 158, c. 1 (4th Supp.), s. 18(F); 1995, c. 22, s. 6; 1999, c. 5, s. 31.
An offence committed while on parole is an aggravating factor. By contrast the added consequences of parole revocation should not be mitigating.
Timing of Prior Record
A criminal record can only be considered where the offender had one at the time of the index offence (this is known as the Coke Rule).
However, when a judge sentences for a convicted offence, the judge may take into consideration other criminal acts, and in a limited fashion, such as offences admitted in an agreed statement facts or pending charges.
- R v Squires, 2012 NLCA 20 (CanLII), (a criminal record "will be viewed as an aggravating factor leading to a more serious punishment rather than as a factor that tends to limit or lessen punishment.")
- R v Barrett, 2012 NLCA 46 (CanLII), at para 35 (a “criminal record is often quite relevant on sentencing in that it may show the offender to be a scofflaw, or lead to an inference that he or she has not been rehabilitated or otherwise learned from past mistakes.”)
R v RA, 1994 CanLII 4524 (MBCA)
R v Garnet Lee Cole, 2013 NBPC 9 (CanLII) at para 34
R v Squires,  NJ 101 at para 55
Squires, ibid. at para 55
R v Presgrave,  QCCA 105 at para 32
R v Barclay, 2018 ONCA 114 at para 44, 49
Presgrave, ibid. at para 32
- R v Moller, 2012 ABCA 381 (CanLII) at para 11
- R v Lavallee, 2006 ABCA 324 (CanLII)
R v Andrade, 2010 NBCA 62 (CanLII)
see also R v Garcia and Silva,  1 O.R. 821 at 823,  3 CCC 124 (C.A.).
- R v Garcia and Silva
see also R v Edwards 2001 CanLII 24105 (ON CA), (2001), 54 O.R. (3d) 737 (C.A.)
The "coke rule" states that a harsher penalty for a subsequent offence cannot be imposed unless the previous conviction was already recorded at the time of the commission of the subsequent offence. 
- eg. Andrade v R., 2010 NBCA 62 (CanLII) at para 2
First Time Offenders
A first sentence for an offender should be "tailored to the individual circumstances of the individual circumstances of the accused rather than solely for the purpose of general deterrence."
Whether to Impose Custodial Sentence on First-time Offenders
When considering sentence for a first-time offender, incarceration should only be imposed when the gravity of the offence requires it.
Section 725(1)(c) permits the a court "may consider any facts forming part of the circumstances of the offence that could constitute the basis for a separate charge".
This provision is the only exception to the rule that offenders are only punished "in respect of crimes for which they ahve been specifically charged adn of which they have been validity convicted".
There must be a connection between the offence before the court and the uncharged conduct.
"Forming part of the circumstances of the offence"
Whether uncharged conduct is part of the circumstances of the offences is determined "on a case-by-case basis".
Where the conduct does not "form part of the circumstances of the offence", it may still nonetheless be relevant should it "form part of the circumstances of the offender".