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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Age and ageism in the sentencing of older adults Love, Helene


As Canada's population ages, judges will increasingly have to determine what sorts of sentences are appropriate for aged criminal offenders. This thesis sought to uncover current trends in judicial practices by asking the research questions: Does old age have an impact on a sentence? When, why, and in what way? Are these practices ageist? This thesis investigates these important questions by first comparing the sentences handed down to older adults (those aged older than 60 years) with those handed down to younger adults (those aged under 60 years) to see if old age has an impact on the duration of penal sentences. While the duration of the sentences handed down to older adults compared to younger adults are not significantly different, in many cases, judges explicitly state that old age operates as a factor that commands leniency in a sentence. Next, a qualitative analysis of the legal texts of the judgments examines when, why and in what way old age influences sentencing practices. These practices are then submitted to an age based critique. Old age impacts sentencing practices in a variety of ways, and can either increase or decrease the duration of a prison term. This paper concludes that, in most cases, judges adopt an age-neutral approach to sentencing.

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