Table of Contents
Background of the Case
On November 1, 1995, the accused was partying with his friends and drinking alcohol. Despite the fact that the respondent was aware of the consequences of his actions, he decided to take the wheel and drive friends home after the party. The accused realized the fact that he was a drunk driver. Moreover, he had not the mechanically sound vehicle. As a licensed driver, the respondent had a practice of only seven weeks.
During the trip, the defendant violated the rules of the road constantly. In spite of the slippery roads and steady oncoming traffic, he followed and tried to pass other cars without signaling, drove weaving in and out of traffic, being very unpredictable. In an attempt to pass another vehicle, the defendant drove into the oncoming lane, snagged one automobile and crashed into the next vehicle. The driver of the oncoming car was seriously wounded. The passenger of the defendant’s car died. During some time, the respondent had been in coma. After recovery, he pleaded guilty to driving under the influence, which caused the death of one person and serious injury of another.
The Legal Position of the Courts of First and Appeal Instances
The court of first instance, the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench, sentenced the respondent to 18 month imprisonment with serving simultaneously on both cases. The judge found that even though the respondent would not endanger the community, a conditional imprisonment was substituted for the jail term by the Manitoba Court of Appeal. The judge ruled that the offender would not pose a danger to the community and determined that the fit sentence would be less than two years. Thus, the conditional sentence was consistent with the principles of criminal punishment.
The Supreme Court’s Decision
The judges reviewed the case based on the broad analysis of sentencing principles listed in ss. 718 and 718.2 of the Criminal Code, R.S.C., 1985 and the objectives of criminal penalty such as denunciation and general deterrence. The court decided that the probation might not be applicable in this case and allowed the appeal. In spite of this, the Supreme Court emphasized the importance of the application of suspended sentences and established the main principles that had to form the basis of decision-making by the other courts in similar cases.
The Concept of Restorative Justice
Nowadays, the Anglo-American system of criminal justice became the applier of various legal innovations. This issue mostly concerns the application of restorative justice and its principles. Restorative justice is a specific approach to the administration of justice, which gives the opportunity to consider the interests of the victim and the offender. The aim is to satisfy the needs of all participants of the criminal procedure, including the whole community, instead of complying the formal legal principles and the purpose to punish an outlaw. Consequently, the imprisonment of criminal does not recover the damages caused by him or her while the application of restorative justice allows eliminating the effects of crime and avoiding severe punishment for a criminal (Griffiths, Klein & Verdun-Jones, 2001).
Justice Lamer of Canada's Supreme Court indicated the following in the case of R. v. Proulx: "Restorative justice is concerned with the restoration of the parties that are affected by the commission of an offence. Crime generally affects at least three parties: the victim, the community, and the offender. A restorative justice approach seeks to remedy the adverse effects of crime in a manner that addresses the needs of all parties involved. This is accomplished, in part, through the rehabilitation of the offender, reparations to the victim and to the community, and the promotion of a sense of responsibility in the offender and acknowledgment of the harm done to victims and to the community" (R. v. Proulx, 2001).
The Significance of the Case
One of the ways to apply restorative justice is to change imprisonment into conditional sentence. Governments of many modern countries try to make changes to the criminal law in order to extend the application of suspended sentence. Thus, the Canadian Parliament has placed the emphasis on a “least restrictive measures” approach. Accordingly, courts should impose a suspended sentence in all cases, except the situations when the application of this type of punishment is not adequate. Nevertheless, courts face the problem of the absence of appropriate instructions concerning this punishment.
Based on the previous mentioned problem, it is extremely necessary to emphasize the fact that the Supreme Court of Canada in its disposition of the case A. R. v. Proulx first established the main principles of suspended sentencing and conditions, under which its application could take place. Thus, this is the main significance of the case A. R. v. Proulx. At this juncture, “the Court analyzed the issue of imposing alternative punishment in the case that concerned an accusation of drunken driving causing death and injuries” (Cormier, 2002).
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The Supreme Court expressed strong endorsement for the conditional sentencing and ruled that there were no presumptions against the usage of conditional sentence. It seems to be relevant, especially if take to account the absence of earlier precedents in similar cases. Consequently, with this judgment, courts have the indicative list of issues, which should be examined in a similar legal dispute.
The Impact of the Case
The current impact of this legal case is completely positive. It is caused by the fact that the Supreme Court drew attention in its decision to the importance of community in the process of considering the criminal case and addressing the issue of restorative justice application. Thus, it can be used only when the court gets the support of community. This important participant of every criminal case also should examine the behavior of criminal and decide whether it is possible to allow serving a sentence among law-abiding citizens, for example, when the issue concerning conditional sentencing is addressed. Therefore, not only the judges should take part in the lawsuit. In the judgment in R. v. Proulx  1 S.C.R. 61, the Supreme Court notes, "trial judges are closer to their community and know better what would be acceptable to their community" (R. v. Proulx, 2001). Consequently, the analyzed case set the precedent, under which, in the case of restorative justice, fair and lawful judgment can take place only when common people participate in it. It is extremely important, considering the fact that judges cannot adequately assess the danger of each particular offender and its ability to serve a sentence, which is not related to imprisonment.
Additionally, the case R. v. Proulx, (2001) shows the ability of the Canadian judicial system to use alternative methods of justice implementation. The sentencing practice in Canada is criticized because of the large amount of punishments connected with incarceration. Thus, there was the problem of establishing an effective system of using more lenient punishments. Moreover, the old formal principles of criminal justice should be revised and brought into line with the modern needs of society, when the main purpose of chastisement is to neutralize the impact of crime rather than punish a person.
Therefore, there was the urgent need to make the right and substantiated decision, which would serve as a guideline for subsequent rulings. The decision of the Supreme Court in R. v. Proulx accomplished this goal (Latimer, Dowden & Muise, 2003).
The Effect of the Case on the Criminal Justice System
In the case of R. v. Proulx, the judges of the Supreme Court first applied the alternative method in judgment. It showed that restorative justice could be used successfully without serious difficulties. Nowadays, it is obvious that terms of cases’ review and sentencing should be brought into line with new purposes of providing a public justice. The punishment for not serious crimes should be humanized, and the community must be involved in this process more actively. The importance of this case lies in the fact that the Supreme Court, the highest court in the country, made the progressive decision, which became a reference point for other courts’ decisions (Ericson & Baranek, 2005). Consequently, it had a huge impact on the whole criminal justice system and served as a landmark for the successive development of justice. Based on the foregoing, it is necessary to mention that the alternative method in judicial activities becomes more effective and widespread. Since 2000, there have been many court rulings, which refer to the principles and methods established in the case of R. v. Proulx. The legal system was changed with a view to accomplish the above mentioned goals. It shows that this case marked the beginning of justice system transformation in Canada (Wilson, Huculak & McWhinnie, 2010).
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The analyzed case influences on the development of the Canadian judicial system significantly. It establishes the general criteria, which should be considered by the court before the decision to impose a conditional sentence, and provides the detailed analysis of the main principles of criminal punishment in accordance with modern standards and purposes. Despite the fact that the Supreme Court decided not to use the conditional sentence in this case, the court emphasized the importance of the application of suspended sentences and mentioned that probation could perform both punitive and restorative objectives.
Moreover, the case serves as a landmark for subsequent decisions and shows the real possibility for lawmakers to change the old way of carrying out justice to a new method, which will substitute imprisonment for conditional sentence, but, certainly, only for minor crimes. Thus, the decision of the Supreme Court in the case R. v. Proulx made a positive impact on the current system of justice in Canada and can be described as extremely advantageous.
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