Major Crimes and Conditional Sentences
Date: Sunday, April 24 2005
Topic: Canadian News
[Information originally posted here, including a link, had to be removed June 27 2005 due to legal reasons involving a libel suit against CTV. CTV notified us and we have removed the related information. I have posted the notification in part to comments.--Susan Thompson, Editor]
When the federal Liberal party introduced conditional sentences to our justice system in 1996, they promised it would just be for minor offences. Their rationale seemed solid. The idea was to divert less serious offenders from our jails to the community without compromising public safety.
Conditional sentences were seen as a tool to ease overcrowded prisons and to give judges more flexibility in dealing with non-violent offenders. The new guidelines allowed people to serve their sentences in the community, albiet with some restrictions such as being house-bound during certain periods or wearing an electronic monitoring bracelet.
Within months of the new law, judges across the country were using conditional sentences -- where offenders serve their "sentence" at home -- for serious, violent crimes, including sexual assault, impaired driving causing death, and even manslaughter.
Despite howls of protest from the public and sharp criticism from many provincial governments, the Liberals have refused to amend the Criminal Code to make violent offenders ineligible for conditional sentences. Victims and lawmakers alike are becoming increasingly outraged by the abuse of conditional sentencing.
Our justice system has failed the most basic tasks we can give ourselves. We have made things worse, and better is becoming further away.