Locating Hard-to-Find Sentencing Decisions

Guest post by Melanie R. Bueckert, Legal Research Counsel – Manitoba Court of Appeal

Rangefindr is another one of the excellent research resources available to members of the Law Society of Manitoba through the Member Portal

Rangefindr logo

While Rangefindr is extremely helpful for all kinds of criminal sentencing research, it is particularly useful when trying to locate cases that do not lend themselves to keyword searching.  For instance, imagine trying to find cases where a lawyer or a police officer is the accused person.  It would be very difficult to construct a keyword search to locate only those cases, without bringing up irrelevant results that also involved lawyers or police officers in other capacities.  Using Rangefindr, such cases can be identified with just a few clicks.

Instead of using Google-style keyword searching, Rangefindr is a filtering service.  To find cases where lawyers were sentenced, one can simply click on the “Accused” category at the top left-hand side of the Rangefindr query page. 

rangefindr accused filter

Scrolling down through the alphabetical list of filters (also called “tags”), clicking “Lawyer” reveals 63 cases in the Rangefindr database.  As soon as the filter is applied, the dispositions in the 63 cases are displayed on the right-hand side of the screen.  Apparently the 63 cases involved 4 absolute discharges, 3 conditional discharges, 10 conditional sentences, 2 intermittent sentences, 2 fines, 2 periods of probation and 40 imprisonments.

table of sentencing decisions

  By clicking “Show Durations”, the display on the right toggles to show a breakdown of the 40 prison sentences.  Clicking “View Cases” brings up the results page, which defaults to showing all 63 cases in reverse chronological order. 

table of imprisonment duration

The cases can also be sorted by “Highest Punishment”, “Lowest Punishment”, “Judge” and “Level of Court”. 

sorting options

Clicking “Tags Associated with this Case” expands the brief case summary to show all of the filters that are associated with the case. 

tags associated with case

Jurisdictional filters can be added by clicking “Edit Search” and choosing the desired jurisdiction(s) under the “Jurisdiction” category on the left-hand side of the screen.  Apparently there are 8 such cases from Manitoba in Rangefindr’s database.

jurisdiction options

  Rangefindr provides links to all of the case results in CanLII (which is where it draws its data from).  These links can be accessed for individual cases by clicking on “Download This Case” in the top-right corner.

Though the Rangefindr database is limited in scope (it generally includes appellate cases since 2000 and trial decisions from 2010 onward), it can help researchers quickly identify pertinent cases, particularly when they involve unique factual elements.  In case you are wondering, Rangefindr’s filters are applied by human editors who go through a rigorous training process. 

To learn more about using Rangefindr, check out the short video available at https://app.rangefindr.ca/help or their Getting Started guide.  For additional Rangefindr search tips, see https://tips.slaw.ca/2017/research/rangefindr-youre-doing-it-wrong/

New Protocol for Accused’s First Appearance

THOMPSON COURT CENTRE

In a continuing effort to reduce infection rates as well as the number of people needed to attend court, Thompson Court Centre has instituted new protocols for accused persons appearing for their first time in court.

Notice – Precautions – in custody first appearances (February 24, 2021)

“Commencing March 1, 2021 accused making their first appearance will appear in court via teleconference from the interview room or holding cells in Thompson Court building and will be brought into the Courtroom for a personal appearance only if so ordered by the presiding Judge.”


See here for all COVID-19 related court notices and practice directions.

New edition of “Prosecuting and Defending Sexual Offence Cases” now available online.

The second edition of Prosecuting and Defending Sexual Offence Cases by Daniel Brown and Jill Witkin, is now available to member’s online through the Member’s Portal.

Sexual Offence Cases 2e

This new edition contains “new chapters on historical sexual offences and cross-examination on private records, and reflects changes in Bill C-51 pertaining to third party records, other sexual history, and consent. Analysis of case law and relevant Criminal Code provisions have been integrated throughout in order to effectively guide readers through the flow of a sexual offence case.”

Also included:

  • Discussion of the new s. 278.92 regime that governs the use of records in sexual offence cases;
  • New section dealing with “myths and stereotypes” in relation to the complainant as well as the accused;
  • Key commentary, from both Crown and defence, on advocacy and trial strategy.

This title is the fourth volume in Emond’s Criminal Law Series. Check out the rest of the series in the Library Resources section of the Member’s Portal.

Judicial Consideration of Mandatory Roadside Breath Tests

If you practice impaired driving law, you may want to review this decision from Saskatchewan Provincial Court on the constitutional validity of mandatory roadside breath tests as implemented by Bill C-46.

In R. v. Morrison, 2020 SKPC 28, M.M. Baniak, J. delivers a discerning judgment on a variety of issues: notice for delay, a voir dire re Charter challenges blended into the trial itself, analysis of s. 320.27(2) of the Criminal Code including a discussion of Parliament’s legislative intent by analysing the words of the preamble to Bill C-46, and a discussion of the judicial meaning of “immediately”.

[172]      Obviously, s. 320.27(2) also has a deleterious effect.  Every person in a free and democratic society should, to the greatest extent possible, be free from a warrantless search or seizure especially when no grounds or reasonable suspicion exist.  This becomes even more concerning when that search or seizure incriminates the person.

[173]      However, the new provision, even though it eliminates the reasonable suspicion requirement, is grounded to an extent on the premise that it is a supplemental investigative tool that is not determinative of a person’s guilt and is subject to judicial review.  The search is restricted to provision of breath samples.  It does not extend to a person’s belongings or his living space.

Even if it’s not applicable in Manitoba, I think it’s a good example of all the elements that can be considered in a decision.

Additional Commentary:

Saskatchewan court rules mandatory roadside breath testing constitutional / Kyla Lee (The Lawyers Daily, August 24, 2020)

New Online Titles

These titles have been newly added to our online collection on DesLibris, which is available behind the Member’s Portal:

Information and Privacy Law in Canada by Barbara von Tigerstrom
” Information and Privacy Law in Canada explores how we can access information held by public bodies, what governments and other organizations can do with information about us, and how we can use the courts or other mechanisms to hold others accountable when they violate our privacy or misuse our personal information. It examines privacy as a multi-faceted concept that includes control over information about ourselves, but also protection of our identities, our personal space, and even our bodies from unwanted scrutiny and interference.”

Mergers, Acquisitions and Other Changes of Corporate Control –3rd ed. by Christopher C. Nicholls
“This book offers a succinct and insightful discussion of the principal laws governing mergers and acquisitions transactions conducted in Canada. It draws on a collection of loosely related legal principles and rules in corporate law and securities law, as well as a handful of other areas relevant to Canadian business acquisitions. This third edition discusses the implications of a host of recent legal and regulatory developments since the publication of the second edition, including, in particular, the groundbreaking changes introduced by National Instrument 62-104 in 2016.”

The Canadian Investor : Challenge and Change in Canadian Capital Markets by Anita Indira Anand
The Canadian Investor is one of the clearest and most informative accounts of Canada’s financial system and the issues it has been facing since the 2008 financial market crash. This insightful book examines all aspects of the many different institutions, programs, actors, and laws that affect investors’ rights. A detailed and accessible analysis of the Canadian landscape that explores securities commissions and other regulatory institutions through a contemporary lens, The Canadian Investor is currently unique in Canada.”

Criminal Procedure — 4th ed. by Steve Coughlan
“This book sets out and examines the law governing criminal procedure in Canada. It explains the body of rules and principles that govern the investigation, prosecution, and adjudication of any offence enacted by Parliament for which an accused person would have a criminal record if found guilty by a court exercising jurisdiction under the Criminal Code. This fourth edition updates the law in all areas of criminal procedure. Most notably, it incorporates significant discussion of Bill C-75, which has made changes to a great many areas of the Criminal Code. In addition, it includes discussion of significant new Supreme Court of Canada cases.”

Anatomy of an Election : Canada’s Federal General Election of 2019 Through the Lens of Political Law by Gregory Tardi
Anatomy of an Election takes a comprehensive and interdisciplinary look at Canada’s 2019 federal election as an example of a democratic election. This book is unique in its explanation of elections and electioneering. It sets the scene by enumerating the foundational elements of Canada’s electoral system, focusing on the constitutional principles, the legislation, and the major court judgments. It then traces the flow of political legal events since 2015 that have led to the forty-third general election. Most importantly, this text provides a day-by-day diary that records the most important political and legal events throughout the campaign.”


Find these books and many more on DesLibris. If you require assistance please contact us at library@lawsociety.mb.ca or check out our Legal Ease guide on DesLibris here.