Publication Details

This article was originally published as McNamara, L, The Locus of Decision-Making Authority in Circle Sentencing: The Significance of Criteria and Guidelines, Windsor Yearbook of Access to Justice, 18, 2000, 60-114. Original journal available here.


This article analyses the criteria and guidelines that have been developed for the operation of circle sentencing as a method of First Nation community participation in the Canadian criminal justice system. The objective of this analysis is to determine whether circle sentencing has the potential to transfer decision-making authority over sentencing from judges within the non-Aboriginal justice system to sentencing circle participants and First Nation communities. This article concludes that although it operates under certain judicially imposed constraints, and without a solid legislative foundation, circle sentencing does have the potential to shift the locus of decision-making authority in a manner which is consistent with the aspiration of many First Nation communities for greater autonomy in the administration of justice.

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