Offenders in custody lose sentence discount

Watt’s bid to amend bill defeated


It’s law: offenders who serve time in preventive custody can no longer count on receiving a two-for-one credit when they’re sentenced.

Senator Charlie Watt’s bid to amend Bill C-25 was defeated last week and the bill designed to end such credit for time served went on to pass the Senate.

Bill C-25 received royal assent and became law on Oct. 23.

Bill C-25, also known as the truth in sentencing act, would “limit the credit a judge may allow for any time spent in pre-sentencing custody in order to reduce the punishment to be imposed at sentencing, commonly called credit for time served.”

The Conservative government introduced the bill to reduce delays in the justice system, and to remove incentives for defence lawyers to delay proceedings.

Calling the new law “an important achievement in implementing our Government’s tackling-crime agenda,” federal justice Minister Rob Nicholson said it gives courts clear sentencing guidance and limits for granting credit for pre-sentencing custody.

The new law caps amount of credit for time served in most cases at a one-to-one credit and permits up to 1.5 days for each day served in preventive custody only where the circumstances — and the courts — justify it.

The new law also limits the pre-sentencing credit to one-for-one for all individuals detained due to their criminal record or who have broken bail conditions.

But Watt said Inuit, First Nations and Métis weren’t consulted about the proposed law, which is likely to see many aboriginal offenders serve more jail time.

“Aboriginal people have a right to be consulted on justice legislation affecting them. This hasn’t been done with this legislation, so I’m proposing they be excluded from Bill C-25,” Watt said Oct. 21, when he introduced an amendment that was subsequently defeated in the Senate.

Watt said the new law would keep Inuit, Nations, Métis in jail longer, where they lack access to clinical assessments, addictions treatment and rehabilitation programming.

“We must question how this is making Canadian communities safer,” Watt said.

During the Senate Committee hearings on Bill C-25, the Office of the Correctional Investigator said access to programming for offenders was in a critical state.

Watt said the committee heard how more offenders are released later in their sentences, “too often not receiving the necessary programs and treatment to increase their chance of success in the community.”

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