The Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Nur considers the constitutionality of a three-year mandatory minimum sentence for unlicensed possession of a loaded firearm.
Although the imposition of the mandatory minimum in the case at bar was found to be reasonable, the Court noted that there were reasonable hypothetical scenarios in which a three-year sentence for a firearms infraction could constitute cruel and unusual punishment within the meaning of Section 12 of the Charter. In particular, it the Court found that it would be cruel and unusual to impose a three-year prison sentence for “the licensed and responsible gun owner who stores his unloaded firearm safely with ammunition nearby, but makes a mistake as to where it can be stored.”
Nur is a vindication for the use of reasonable hypotheticals in determining the constitutionality of mandatory minimum sentences. It is also a reality check for governments seeking to impose mandatory jail terms for what amount to technical regulatory offences.
Decided by the Supreme Court of Canada on April 14, 2015.
Click here for the full text of the decision.