A Brief History of Punishment & Sentencing
Punishment In Ancient Communities
The common forms of punishment in ancient communities were capital punishment,
physical mutilation, confiscation of property, exile and loss of civil status
In the Roman Republic, from 509 Bc onward, the death penalty was the usual punishment
for crime although conviction for some offences was followed by orders for
From the middle of the second century BC, courts were used to adjudicate guilt for some
offences, but sanctions were stipulated expressly in statues.
This marked the beginning of the evolution from private to public conceptions of the
Punishment in the Middle Ages
The criminal law was enforced by various institutions and individuals including the
sovereign, local lords, the church, and local courts
In England Henry II began building prisons but these were generally intended for debtors,
trespassers, and those convicted of contempt and other lesser offences
On the continent, imprisonment was little used
It was usually restricted to confinement for those who could not pay fines or as an
alternative to capital punishment
Europe Before the Birth of the Penitentiary
Corporal punishment also included various forms of branding and mutilation, used
ostensibly to permit judges to identify recidivists but also intended to encourage public
A Brief History of Sentencing in Canada
Criminal law in Canada, including the law of sentencing, now derives almost entirely
from the Criminal Code
Enacted in 1892, the first comprehensive code owed a great deal to English antecedents.
An enactment in Upper Canada in 1833 not only dramatically reduced the availability of
the death penalty but also provided a framework for other penalties.
After that date, the only capital crimes were murder, treason, rape and carnal knowledge
of a girl under ten years of age, robbery, burglary, arson, buggery and bestiality.
Only specific offence dealt with by this sect