Montreal criminal lawyers were pleasantly surprised by the unanimous ruling a five member panel of the Ontario Court of Appeal upholding lower court rulings which had struck down the mandatory minimum sentences for certain firearms offences. The Harper government had enacted legislation in 2008 whereby persons convicted by indictment of possession of loaded restricted or prohibited firearms,or with ‘readily accessible’ ammunition was subject to a minimum sentence of three years in jail.The court of appeal judgment held the provisions to be ‘cruel and unusual Punishment’ within the meaning of section 12 of the Charter of Rights on the basis that persons could be subject to these severe sentences for offences committed in circumstances which didn’t justify such harsh treatment. The government has already reacted to the ruling by issuing a statement that they would continue to support the use of mandatory sentencing provisions to ‘better protect the public’, even though expert research has consistently pointed to an absence significant deterrent effect of this type of legislation. It remains to be seen whether the government will appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court or amend the laws to render them constitutionally acceptable.