The Meaning of Life: A Study of the Use of Parole Ineligibility for Murder Sentencing

Isabel Grant, Crystal Choi, Debra Parkes

Research output: Article


A number of legal developments in recent years suggest that murder sentencing may be becoming increasingly punitive. This study examines two aspects of setting parole ineligibility. First, using cases from three two-year time periods spanning the past three decades, the authors explore whether judicial calculations of parole ineligibility for second degree murder have changed over time. Second, the authors examine changes enacted in 2011 to allow parole ineligibility to be imposed consecutively for those who commit more than one murder. The study finds a national trend towards reduced reliance on the minimum 10-year period of parole ineligibility, a slight increase in parole ineligibility periods over time, and evidence that increasingly harsh parole ineligibility in Ontario may be driving the national trends. With respect to consecutive periods of parole ineligibility, the cases suggest that courts are imposing consecutive parole ineligibility in just less than 45% of the eligible cases with that result being more likely where the victims include strangers. Courts in Ontario and Alberta have thus far shown the highest rates of consecutive parole ineligibility while British Columbia has resisted this trend. The authors conclude that some kind of review mechanism, like a faint hope clause, is necessary to temper the harshness of these increasingly long periods of parole ineligibility and that further study is warranted to explore the preliminary trends identified in this study.

Original languageUndefined/Unknown
JournalAll Faculty Publications
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2020

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