Intimate Partner Violence Sentencing

From Criminal Law Notebook
This page was last substantively updated or reviewed January 2024. (Rev. # 93726)

General Principles

See also: Offences of Violence (Sentencing)

Section 718.2(a)(ii) provides that “evidence that the offender, in committing the offence, abused the offender’s intimate partner or a member of the victim or the offender’s family...shall be deemed to be an aggravating factor." This can include those who are in a sexual relationship but may not be co-habitating.[1]

A spousal connection between the offender and victim is an aggravating factor at common law.[2]

Denunciation and Deterrence are Primary

The primary principles are denunciation and general deterrence for domestic violence offences.[3]

Offences of violence that are between ex-partners would not be considered a case of domestic violence.[4]

Courts are not to tolerate domestic violence within the communities.[5]

Custodial sentences are considered the norm where significant bodily harm has been inflicted in a domestic violence situation.[6] This is in part due to courts recognizing that domestic violence is often part of continuous abuse ongoing in the relationship.[7]

The special need for deterrence extends beyond the separation of the partners and the termination of the relationship.[8]

  1. R v Wenc, 2009 ABCA 328 (CanLII), AJ No 1075, per curiam (3:0), at paras 23 to 25
  2. R v Doyle, 1991 CanLII 2535 (NSCA), , 108 NSR (2d) 1 (CA), per Hallett JA
    R v Brown, 1992 ABCA 132 (CanLII), 13 CR (4th) 346, 73 CCC 242, per curiam
    R v Pitkeathly, 1994 CanLII 222 (ON CA), 29 CR (4th) 182, per curiam
    R v Jackson, 1996 ABCA 195 (CanLII), 106 CCC (3d) 557, per O'Leary JA (3:0)
    R v Edwards, 1996 CanLII 1522 (ON CA), 28 OR (3d) 54, 105 CCC (3d) 21, per Finlayson JA
    R v Stone, 1999 CanLII 688 (SCC), [1999] 2 SCR 290, per Bastarache J (5:4)
  3. R v McCarthy, 2005 NLCA 36 (CanLII), 198 CCC (3d) 383, per Cameron JA
    R v Dodd, 1999 CanLII 18930 (NL CA), 180 Nfld. & PEIR 145, per Marshall JA at 38
    R v O'Keefe, (1997), 158 Nfld. & PEIR 138 (NLPC)(*no CanLII links) , at p. 252
    R v Rahaman, 2008 ONCA 1 (CanLII), 76 WCB (2d) 138, per Watt JA, at para 46 (The primary objectives in offences of "violence arising out of an existing or failed domestic or romantic relationship" is denunciation and deterrence.)
    R v Saghier, 2017 ONSC 227 (CanLII), per Garson J, at para 46
    also see R v Dodd, 1999 CanLII 18930 (NLCA), , [1999] NJ No. 262 (Nfld. C.A. and 1999 CanLII 13904 (NL CA), per Marshall JA, at paras 38 to 39
    R v Campbell, 2003 CanLII 48403 (ON CA), 170 OAC 282, per curiam
    R v Wishlow, 2013 MBCA 34 (CanLII), 291 Man R (2d) 149, per Steel JA (3:0) ("Domestic violence is a serious problem in our society and the paramount sentencing principle for assaults of this nature should be deterrence and denunciation.")
    R v Lausberg, 2013 ABCA 72 (CanLII) (working hyperlinks pending), per McDonald JA
    R v Prevost, 2019 ABCA 398 (CanLII) (working hyperlinks pending), per curiam
    R v Cunningham, 2023 ONCA 36 (CanLII) (working hyperlinks pending), per Benotto JA, at para 52 ("Thus, the intention of Parliament clearly supports enhanced penalties for perpetrators of domestic violence and denunciation and deterrence as the primary sentencing objectives. It also supports changes in sentencing ranges to reflect societal awareness and knowledge of the damage to society, as well as victims, caused by domestic violence.")
  4. R v Wesslen, 2015 ABCA 74 (CanLII), 599 AR 159, per curiam (3:0)
  5. R v Wilhelm, 2014 ONSC 1637 (CanLII), OJ No 1176, per Hill J, at para 101
    R v Menary, 2012 ONCA 706 (CanLII), 298 OAC 108, per curiam, at para 7
  6. R v Inwood, 1989 CanLII 263 (ON CA), , [1989] O.J. No. 428 (CA), per Howland CJO
    Saghier, supra, at para 46
  7. R v Bates, 2000 CanLII 5759 (ON CA), 146 CCC (3d) 321, per Moldaver and Feldman JJA, at para 30
  8. R v Lausberg, 2013 ABCA 72 (CanLII), 544 AR 56, per McDonald JA, at para 25
    R v Lee, 2004 ABCA 46, per Martin JA, at para 8 ("sentences should reflect the need to deter violence during the period following separation or termination of a relationship")