Also known as a sentencing circle.
In R. c. Naappaluk, Justice Dutil of the Court of Quebec wrote:
"[C]onsultation circle ... physically describes the group's formation and the objective pursued, namely to provide and obtain consultation prior to sentencing. All participants in the session sit in a circle, with neither table nor desk in the centre, so that they all appear on an equal footing: nobody dominates anybody else by seeming to preside at a table, and nobody is in the background. Everyone looks at everyone else and dialogue is easier. Participants remain sitting while they speak, they speak in their own language as long as they wish and they are not interrupted by translation, which takes place only at the end of each contribution to the discussion. As I see it, the judge's role in a consultation circle is that of a discreet facilitator, who must allow participants to express themselves....
"[T]he basic purpose of a consultation circle is to give advice to the judge on sentencing...."
In R v Alaku, Justice Dutil again wrote of consultation circles:
"When deciding whether to hold a circle, the Court could consider 2 criteria which, in our opinion, are absolutely essential.... The accused must have the firm and clear intention to rehabilitate himself and become a good citizen; this is, without a doubt, the absolutely essential condition or the first criterion to be met to hold a circle.... Another criterion or essential condition which must be considered is the desire of the community to become involved for the sake of one of its members."
In R v Cheekinew, Justice Grotsky of the Saskatchewan Court of Queen's Bench refused to convene a circle for the accused. Justice Grotsky noted that the accused had been convicted of aggravated assault, had a long criminal record covering 59 crimes over 24 years, and could not, then, be sincere in his request. The Court added, at ¶25:
"[T]he offender should be ... genuinely contrite with respect to the offence of which he stands convicted and faces sentencing (and) honestly interested in turning his or her life around with the assistance and supervision of his or her community."
In R v Moses, Justice Stuart of the Yukon Territorial Court provided a brilliant and comprehensive review of these sentencing tools, and this is only an extract, at ¶38-41:
"By arranging the court in a circle without desks or tables, with all participants facing each other, with equal access and equal exposure to each other, the dynamics of the decision-making process were profoundly changed. Everyone in turn around the circle introduced themselves. Everyone remained seated when speaking. After opening remarks from the judge, and counsel, the formal process dissolved into an informal,but intense discussion of what might best protect the community and extract Philip from the grip of alcohol and crime. The tone was tempered by the close proximity of all participants. For the most part, participants referred to each other by name, not by title. While disagreements and arguments were provoked by most topics, posturing, pontification, and the well-worn platitudes, commonly characteristic of courtroom speeches by counsel and judges were gratefully absent. The circle setting dramatically changed the roles of all participants, as well as the focus, tone, content and scope of discussions. The following observations denote the more obvious benefits generated by the circle setting."