Canadian Criminal Sentencing/Available Sentences/Concurrent and Consecutive Sentences

General Principles edit

Cumulative punishments are known as consecutive sentences. This only applies to jail sentences, all other sentences run concurrently.

All sentences are presumed to be served concurrently. The Code provides for cumulative punishments at section 718.3:



Cumulative punishments
(4) The court or youth justice court that sentences an accused may direct that the terms of imprisonment that are imposed by the court or the youth justice court or that result from the operation of subsection 734(4) or 743.5(1) or (2) shall be served consecutively, when

(a) the accused is sentenced while under sentence for an offence, and a term of imprisonment, whether in default of payment of a fine or otherwise, is imposed;
(b) the accused is found guilty or convicted of an offence punishable with both a fine and imprisonment and both are imposed;
(c) the accused is found guilty or convicted of more than one offence, and
(i) more than one fine is imposed,
(ii) terms of imprisonment for the respective offences are imposed, or
(iii) a term of imprisonment is imposed in respect of one offence and a fine is imposed in respect of another offence; or
(d) subsection 743.5(1) or (2) applies.

1995, c. 22, s. 6; 1997, c. 18, s. 141; 2002, c. 1, s. 182.


Generally, sentences for offences that occur at separate occasions will be served consecutively.[1] While where the offences arise out of the same transaction, the sentences will be typically concurrent.[2] If the court does not indicate whether sentences are concurrent or consecutive it is presumed concurrent.[3]

Nevertheless, the decision of consecutive sentences is one entitled to deference.[4]

Sentences may be imposed consecutively in relation to a single transaction where the punishments protect "different societal interests" or "different legal interests".[5] A judge should consider the time frame within which the offences occurred, the similarity of the offences, whether a new intent or impulse initiated each of the offences and whether the total sentence is fit and proper under the circumstances.[6]

When deciding whether a sentence should be consecutive or concurrent, the court should consider 1) the time frame of the offences, 2) the similarity of the offences, 3) whether a new intent broached each offence, and 4) whether the total sentence is fit and proper.[7]

Certain sentences must be ordered to be served consecutively:

  1. Commission of indictable offence to advantage a terrorist group (s. 83.2 and s. 83.26)
  2. Instructing activity for terrorist group (s. 83.21(1) and s. 83.26)
  3. Instructing terrorist activity (s. 83.22(1) and s. 83.26)
  4. Instructing commission of offence for criminal organization (s. 467.13(1) and s. 467.14)

The decision on whether a sentence should be concurrent or consecutive "should be treated with the same deference owed by appellate courts to sentencing judges concerning the length of sentences ordered."[8]

  1. R. v. Dube 2006 QCCA 699 [1]; R. v. Howett (1982) BCCA
  2. R. v. Mascarenhas, 2002 CanLII 41625 (ON CA) [2];
    R. v. Veysey, 2006 NBCA 55 [3]
    R. v. Desmarest (1986), 2 Q.A.C. 151
    R. v. Charchuk (1973), 6 N.S.R. (2d) 519
  3. R. v. McCarthy 2005 NLCA __
  4. R. v. M.(T.E.), [1997] 1 S.C.R. 948, at para. 46
  5. R. v. Gillis, 2009 ONCA 312 [4]; R. v. Clarke (1994), 94 CCC 249(NSCA)
  6. R. v. G.A.W., (1993), 125 N.S.R. (2d) 312 (NSCA)
    R. v. Naugle, 2011 NSCA 33
  7. R. v. G.A.W., (1993), 125 N.S.R. (2d) 312 (NSCA);
    R. v. Naugle, 2011 NSCA 33 (CanLII), 2011 NSCA 33
  8. R. v. McDonnell, 1997 CanLII 389 (SCC), [1997] 1 S.C.R. 948 at para. 17