In Canada, there is a legal debate going on. The issue: Sentencing credit for pre-trial custody. What this means is that if you are charged with a crime, time served in jail prior to the trial counts double toward your sentence.
Ex. A person is charged with murder and put in jail but (because of limited resources in the justice system) doesn’t go to trial for a year. That means if he/she is found guilty, they will get 2 years off their sentence because of already spending a year in jail waiting for a trial.
The House of Commons in Canada (Conservative Party dominated) passed a bill that would get rid of this ‘pre-sentencing credit’ entirely. But the secondary body of government, the Senate (Liberal Party dominated), altered it to give 1.5 days of credit for each day spent in custody. Conservatives are outraged at this, calling it a ‘gutting’ of their bill.
Click HERE for the most recent CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) story.
Credit for pre-trial custody is a MUST in the justice system. It encourages people, who are innocent until proven guilty, to be processed through the court system promptly without delays. Imagine being charged for a crime, and not having the ability to defend yourself for a year…or two! Having credits gives more incentive for the justice system to try accused criminals within a reasonable amount of time.
As for the criticism that this allows the defense to delay the case: well why not deal with that issue only? Why not give pre-trial credit up to the point where the crown is ready for a trial? Thereby any further delay by the defense would not count for credit. But no, that would just make too much sense: tackling the root of the problem.
I’ve never been a big fan of the senate, and I’ve always supported the idea of senate reform. But today, I’m happy there is a secondary body to make sure that the House of Commons gets it right.
Related CBC Newstories: 1, 2, 3