• Lewis Waring

Considerations in Sentencing - Sierra Bednarz

Once an offender has pled guilty or been convicted, a court is charged with implementing a reasonable and fit sentence. This is no easy task for the justice system, as it consists of balancing a number of different sentencing guidelines and principles set out in the Criminal Code [“the Code”]. Ultimately, the severity of the sentence imposed by the justice system is often reflective of society’s view of a particular crime. As such, “sentences that are too lenient and sentences that are too harsh can undermine public confidence in the administration of justice.” While the judiciary has considerable discretion on what that sentence should be, it is integral that similar sentences be imposed for similar crimes. Additionally, a fit sentence must be proportionate to the seriousness of the offence and the offender’s degree of responsibility.

On one hand, the objectives of sentencing include the denouncement of unlawful conduct, deterrence, and the separation of the offender from society, all of which are intended to prevent crime. The incarceration of offenders ensures that they are incapable of committing crimes, and the threat of punishment is intended to make people think twice about offending in the first place. On the other hand, a fit sentence should also provide reparations for harm done to the victim and the community, enable offender rehabilitation, and encourage offenders to take responsibility for their actions. These objectives are more rehabilitative in nature, focused on helping offenders learn from their mistakes and address the harm that they have caused. In practice, these objectives can be contradictory and often require certain objectives to be prioritized depending on the situation. In cases of violent criminals who are likely to reoffend, a court is more likely to prioritize the objectives of incapacitation and denouncement over those of rehabilitation and restitution. In addition to all above sentencing objectives, an offender’s sentence may be reduced or increased in response to any mitigating or aggravating factors.

It is evident from the number of sentencing guidelines and objectives that the implementation of a fit sentence is a challenging pursuit. Acourt must consider the severity of the offence committed, the circumstances surrounding its commission, and the individual offender themselves.

A seemingly unmotivated attack

In the Manitoba Court of Appeal’s (“the MBCA”) 2020 decision of R v Kravchenko (“Kravchenko”), the accused had committed an entirely unprovoked assault on a stranger with no motive or explanation. The accused in Kravchenko was not a career criminal nor was his offence premeditated. The accused’s actions were violent, unpredictable, and nearly resulted in the death of his young victim. This made the accused’s actions all the more concerning and difficult to comprehend.

On a Sunday morning in 2017, Mr. Kravchenko attended a church service in Winkler, Manitoba with a folding knife in his pocket. After the service was over, he went into the women’s washroom and found the victim, a 15-year-old girl, washing her hands. Kravchenko pulled out the knife and stabbed the victim in the back; when she turned around, he stabbed her once again in the abdomen. The victim, who had to be airlifted to Winnipeg for surgery, suffered serious internal injuries and a laceration on her arm from the attack. As a result of Mr. Kravchenko’s actions, she suffers from severe emotional distress and had to relearn how to walk.

The accused left the church and sat in a car until he was arrested with the bloodied knife in his possession. Mr. Kravchenko confessed to the crime but maintained that he did not target the victim and that his actions were unpl