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School of Law

Race as a Sentencing Factor

When: Wednesday, February 24, 2021, 4:00 PM - 5:30 PM
Where: Online

This Criminal Justice Centre Online Event will be chaired by Dr Jeffrey Kennedy (Queen Mary University of London).

About this Event

The Criminal Justice Centre at Queen Mary University of London’s School of Law is delighted to welcome Professor Lisa Kerr (Queen’s University) for “Race as a Sentencing Factor”. In this virtual talk, Professor Kerr will explore questions related to the relevance of race and colonial history to criminal sentencing decisions. While drawing on Canadian developments and debates, the issues and questions explored will undoubtedly be of wider significance to criminal sentencing and justice in England and Wales and beyond.


The Canadian ‘Gladue framework’ tells legal actors to consider a broad historical record in the context of a sentencing proceeding involving an Indigenous person. It is a framework that has not been uniformly understood or followed. Gladue has been “strongly resisted” by a body of lower court judges, due to a number of “practical and systemic constraints” and “cognitive and epistemological hurdles” (Sylvestre & Denis-Boileau 2017). At a time when lawyers seem to be asking judges to apply aspects of the Gladue framework to Black defendants, it is worth returning to the animating aims of s. 718.2(e) of the Criminal Code, to its variously celebrated and contested history, and to the interpretive and practical challenges it has given rise to on the ground. This paper will map and analyze what is being characterized by some lawyers and judges as an extension of Gladue to other racialized defendants. It will track the various reactions to the Gladue project, from the radical critique that Gladue risks legitimating an oppressive criminal system, to the reactionary claim of "race-based" privileging. The paper also aims to challenge the conventional view that Gladue sentencing is a meaningful departure from the standard hunt for a fit, individualized sanction that is, at least officially, the central task of Canadian sentencing courts. This final point suggests that any putative extension of Gladue should be seen as uncontroversial.

About the Speaker

Lisa Kerr is an Assistant Professor at Queen’s University’s Faculty of Law where she serves as Director of the Criminal Law Group and teaches in the areas of Criminal Law, Sentencing, and Prison Law. Professor Kerr earned her JD at the University of British Columbia. She clerked with the BC Court of Appeal and was an associate at Fasken Martineau. She also served as staff lawyer at Prisoners’ Legal Services, Canada’s only dedicated legal aid office for prisoners.

Professor Kerr earned an LLM and JSD at New York University, where she was named a Trudeau Scholar. Her research focuses on punishment theory and the comparative study of criminal law, sentencing policy and prisoner rights.

**Please note this is an online event and joining instructions will be sent to all registrants the day before the event.

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