Examining the judicial imposition of indeterminate sentences for dangerous offenders in Canada


University of British Columbia

Date Issued


Document Type



Master of Laws - LLM




Part XXIV of the Criminal Code contains a legislative mechanism to detain indefinitely people who have repeatedly committed violent offences and who are deemed too dangerous to be released into society because of their history of violent offending. Sentencing under Part XXIV involves judicial consideration of statutorily mandated risk assessment reports. These reports are conducted by psychological experts who present their testimony surrounding their report in a DO hearing. Judges rely heavily on the information contained within these reports when deciding whether to impose an indeterminate sentence on an individual who has been designated dangerous. Despite being challenged over time, the DO regime has been upheld as constitutional. Notwithstanding, there is a growing body of research questioning the socio-cultural validity of Part XXIV’s sentencing mechanism, specifically its great emphasis on predictions of future risk. The purpose of this thesis is to examine how and why judges decide to impose and indeterminate sentences on certain individuals designated dangerous, while others not. I first question whether indeterminate sentences, as a practice, can be theoretically justified. Through examining caselaw I look at how judges determine the appropriate disposition for designated dangerous offenders, and the factors which judges appear to give the most weight in deciding whether to impose an indeterminate sentence. Specifically, I examine the impact that offender/victim relationships had on disposition outcome, and how judges consider the Indigeneity of the offender in assessing whether the indeterminate sentence is appropriate. Ultimately, I flag the need for further research into cultural bias in the context of risk assessment under Part XXIV and how judges activate their remedial role by adopting a ‘Gladue forward approach’ and refusing to impose indeterminate sentences on Indigenous people.

Date Available



Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International




Law, Peter A. Allard School of