New Law Expects to Unclog Criminal Courts

By Cindy Chan, Epoch Times
February 23, 2010 6:29 pm Last Updated: February 23, 2010 6:30 pm

OTTAWA—Canada has toughened up the law to help unclog the courts while ensuring that criminals serve a sentence that reflects the severity of their crimes, said Justice Minister Rob Nicholson on Tuesday.

At a teleconference for media Mr. Nicholson announced the Truth in Sentencing Act, a new law that came into effect on Monday.

“This is a piece of legislation that will limit the amount of credit granted for time served in custody prior to sentencing,” Mr. Nicholson said. “It does bring more truth to sentencing and gives Canadians more confidence in that justice is being served.”

Up until now, individuals charged with a crime who were detained and later convicted could get a reduced sentence amounting to a credit of two days for every day they spent in pre-sentencing custody.

So a criminal who received a four-year sentence would only serve two years if they had already spent one year in jail prior to sentencing, as they would get a two-year credit for that one year.

Mr. Nicholson said that in the Don Jail in Toronto, criminals received a three-for-one credit.

“That won’t happen anymore,” he said. The new law limits the amount of credits an individual convicted of a crime receives to a one-for-one ratio, so “they get [a credit of] one year if they’ve been in jail for one year.”

The new law eliminates the situation in which an individual doesn’t want to have a bail hearing because they are racking up credits, Mr. Nicholson said.

“I am very pleased I’ve had the support of all provincial attorneys general. They tell me this is clogging up the courts and they’re getting endless remands and adjournments and this isn’t good for the whole system, so it’s a step in the right direction.”

The new rules will provide a consistency in the administration of justice that Canada did not have before, said Mr. Nicholson.

And by removing the incentive for someone to stay in custody longer and delay making a decision about a trial or a plea, it will also help to reduce the number of people in pre-sentencing custody, he said.

The change will keep criminals off the streets longer, particularly violent offenders and members of gangs and organized crime.

Mr. Nicholson said Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews has assured him that “the capacity is there to handle the individuals who end up in the federal correctional system,” adding that the Canadian criminal justice system has taken “a balanced approach.”