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Lecture

March 21 week 10.docx


Department
Sociology
Course Code
SOC 3730
Professor
Sarah Ciotti

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March 21/2012
Courts and Society
Criminal Justice: Policy and Process
Key Points to Consider
o Courts often play an important role in shaping the content of criminal law under the charter
o Most criminal charges by police never result in a trial: the accused often enters into a plea
agreement as a strategic decision between the defense and the crown
Trials are very expensive for an accused person
Issues with legal aid lawyers, representation and funding
o The small portion of cases that do end up going to trial are usually for cases and do not involve
injuries
Often characterized as a funnel: there are a high number of charges but fewer cases
result in prison sentences
fewer than 5% of charges result in a prison sentence
o The court process is both a formal and informal process
Functions and Influences of Courts in Criminal Law
o Defining scope and substance of criminal law
Courts determine whether the government has acted outside the scope of its criminal
law power when passing a law by settling jurisdictional disputes
Decide whether a criminal law violates the Charter
Interpret and define the criminal code and other federal statues
Develop common law defences
Federalism:
Constitution Act gave the federal government authority over criminal law
This created tension between the federal government and the
provincial/territorial governments
When conflicts arise the courts are often asked to rule on the jurisdictional
question
Charter:
The Charter can strike down provincial laws on federal grounds in order to
protect fundamental rights and liberties
Gave judges more power to define what kinds of actions or motives should be
criminalized
Gave judges more power to determine what kinds of punishments are suitable
for criminal offenses under what conditions
Lots of power in issues that are considered important to Canada ex. abortion,
pornography, mandatory minimum sentences etc.
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