New & Notable: Forever young? Not "able"

In February of 2009, Toronto police received a tip that a number of men in a car were in possession of illegal firearms.  Officers approached a vehicle to investigate.  As they advanced, the door flung open and a suspect fled.  That suspect’s name was Warren Able.


He fled for good reason.  He was in possession of a loaded, semi-automatic, .45 calibre firearm, a restricted weapon pursuant to section 95(1) of the Criminal Code.  A chase ensued, he was arrested and the firearm was recovered.

It was not the first time he was arrested for possession of this type of weapon.  Less than two years earlier, when he was a youth, he was convicted and sentenced for the same offence.

After considering his options, Mr. Able decided to plead guilty to the more recent charge in addition to a number of other offences. 

Section 95(2) holds that for a second offence under section 95(1) the sentencing court is bound to sentence the offender to a mandatory minimum five years in custody if the second offence is within 10 years of the first offence.

The court sentenced Mr. Able to 9 ½ years in custody.  Mr. Able appealed: 2013 ONCA 385.

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Current & Curious: 3 years or not, a minimum is clearly needed

The Ontario Court of Appeal is soon to release a significant decision on the constitutional validity of the mandatory minimum set out in section 95 (3 years). In the meantime, trial courts continue to have drastically divergent views on the appropriate sentence for this offence. While that is, in part, undoubtedly a function of the different circumstances of the offenders and offences, it may also be seen as evidence of why a mandatory minimum was and continues to be necessary.

Vader is an example at one end of the spectrum; in that case the court imposed a 5.5 year sentence where the offender was caught driving around with an "arsenal" of weapons - a sentence which is hard to criticize: 2013 ONSC 109. On the other end of the spectrum, Laponsee is a curious case where the court imposed a 12-month conditional sentence where the offender had brought a firearm and ammunition to the airport - a sentence which is somewhat easier to criticize.

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Comment: The right to know a little more

The Right to Know is a column in the Ottawa Citizen written by a group of lawyers from the Edelson, Clifford D’Angelo Law Firm. The column is said to be aimed at informing the public “on their rights and obligations…under the law”.


In the past I posted a blog (Lack of Knowledge is bad, Imperfect Knowledge may be Worse) on one of the articles written in this column (Meeting the Police: An Informed Citizen won’t be intimidated). A recent article, authored by Solomon Friedman (Judges have broad range of sentencing options), warrants similar comment.

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