The Current Debate on Criminal Sentencing (on Canadian Law)

The Current Debate on Criminal Sentencing (on Canadian Law)

There has been recent controversy around Canada’s regulations on time spent in jail before trial and how it is credited, also known as pretrial imprisonment credit. The conservatives have been dedicated to a “tough-on-crime” campaign that will restrict pretrial imprisonment credit to face-value, in order to reduce crime levels. The other sideis pushing to offer criminals 150% of credit for the time they spend in jail prior to sentencing. There have been regulations in the past leading up to this issue as follows.

Truth in Sentencing

The Truth in Sentencing Act, issued in 2010, was drawn up to reduce the possibility of an early release from imprisonment. The bill was passed to curb a long-established trend in the Canadian courts where judges were routinely in the habit of giving double credit for pre-trial time served in the prison. This credit then reduced the total number of daysafter being sentenced. This meant that a sentence of 90 days, really meant 60 days.

This Act sought to change this practice and ensure the public’s trust in the judiciary by making it easier for them to interpret criminal sentences at face value. In response, judges were not supposed to able to make the decision to give more credit when they saw it was due. Exceptions were none the less made offering 2-3 times credit, giving birth to the opposition of the act.

The Overturn

Recent debate has risento overturn the act and offer the judge discretion to award up to 1.5 days of credit for every pretrial day spent in jail. The case has been brought up infront of Supreme Court, who ruled unanimously in favor of the 1.5 day credit.

Implications of This Debate

The pro side of this bill is that the bar has been set so that the maximum credit awarded is 1.5 to 1. In addition, judges are given the discretion to make the call on a case-by-case basis where before they just had to follow the rule. Based on the fact that a person who has not been proven guilty is held in jail, it is a reasonable claim to offer them more time. It has been noted that typically those people who are ill or poor cannot post bail, and must stay in prison. To compensate forvarious situations, this regulation gives a judge some jurisdiction again.

The conservative governmental efforts to earn the trust of the population and cut back on crime weren’t founded firmly enough to win this case. Although they want to be tough on criminals, they will have to come back with a stronger case proving why pretrial time should be counted at face value. Another option is to find other areas where they can tighten up the system. Time will tell what approach they will take, meanwhile criminals will have their sentencing calculated up to 1.5 times the credit depending on their situation according to the judge.

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