Canada

Convicts to lose double-time credit for pretrial custody

The federal government will introduce legislation Friday to end the practice of giving convicted criminals double-time credit for time spent in pretrial custody, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said Wednesday.

The federal government will introduce legislation Friday to end the practice of giving convicted criminals double-time credit for time spent in pretrial custody, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said Wednesday. 

The "two-for-one" credit — whereby each day spent in custody was counted as two — was meant to compensate inmates for so-called "dead time" before their cases were dealt with in court.

"The policy has developed over the years where a person gets double credit for the time they served — or in some instances, they get triple credit — and I think there are many people across this country, myself included, who would like to see more truth in sentencing, in the sense that the sentence you get is the sentence that you will serve," Nicholson told reporters in Ottawa.

Doing away with the practice will help unclog the court system, he added.

"I think that individuals will not find it to their advantage, or their solicitors will not find it their advantage, to have continuous delays or adjournments. So I think this will help move the process forward."

The premise of the credit was to take into account conditions in pretrial custody — prisoners being held in overcrowded jails with no access to rehabilitation or other amenities of long-term prison housing.

Many judges accept the credit as standard practice though it is not spelled out in the Criminal Code.

"There should be no problem getting this [bill] passed in a day," if opposition parties are serious about cracking down on crime, Nicholson said.

The Opposition Liberals have been calling on the Tories to do away with it.

The NDP has also expressed support for getting rid of the two-for-one concept in most cases.

Though the Bloc Québécois supports the bill, the party's justice critic balked at the suggestion that it should rushed through the Commons in one day.

Réal Ménard said it should be sent to committee for review so interested groups can have input.

With files from the Canadian Press

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