The discord between policy and practice: defence lawyers’ use of section 718.2 (e) and Gladue

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McDonald, Rana
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This study explores the differences (and similarities) between sentencing reform and the legal practices of criminal defence lawyers. This research specifically focuses on Section 718.2 (e) of the Criminal Code, which is aimed at reducing the use of imprisonment for Aboriginal offenders and the application of the section in the Supreme Court’s 1999 decision R .v. Gladue. It investigates whether or not the section and/or Gladue has affected the legal practices of criminal defence lawyers and if so, how. The practice of lawyers, in this study, is conceptualized as structured action. The agency of lawyers is thus constrained and enabled by both macro and micro processes. These include traditional legal ideology, managerial/organizational ideology, presuppositions surrounding Aboriginality as well as the broader socio-political context of neo-liberalism and neo-conservativism. How the practices of defence lawyers either reflect or contradict the section and Gladue is examined through the oral narratives of lawyers—obtained through in-depth semi-structured interviews with twelve defence lawyers. The findings of this analysis show that the vast majority of lawyers were not integrating the section or Gladue in their defence strategies. This suggests that efforts to remedy the issue of Aboriginal over-incarceration need to be aware of the complexity of criminal justice processes, the agency of lawyers and the broader social and political context.
lawyers, Gladue, Aboriginal, law, Section 718.2(e), policy, practice, socio-political, ideology, agency