Local lawyers pan end to 2-for-1 custody credit

Tessa Holloway
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Local lawyers and legal experts say a new law to ban two-for-one credit for time served in remand has more to do with politics than justice.

Local lawyers and legal experts say a new law to ban two-for-one credit for time served in remand has more to do with politics than justice.

The law, which was passed on Thursday by the Senate without any amendments to the legislation, ends the practice where judges have the discretion to give two days credit, or more, for every day served in remand awaiting trial.

Instead, they set a limit of one day's credit for every day served in remand, or 1.5 for exceptional situations, so long as the judge gives written reasoning.

The government has argued that the two-for-one means criminals are released far sooner than their sentences would otherwise suggest, while some also choose to remain in remand in the hopes of shortening their prison or jail terms.

Prince Albert MP Randy Hoback said it's a poor practice that people in the riding were against.

"Most people would say in the riding if you're convicted of a crime, you should serve your full time," he said.

The law also had support of all parties in the House of Commons and three Western premiers, including Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, but some local legal experts are wary.

John Whyte, former Saskat-chewan deputy minister of Justice and law professor at the University of Saskatchewan's college of law, said there is an ongoing restriction on judicial discretion based on the perception that judges are soft on crime.

"I think that's a very misguided anxiety. Judges take crime very serious and give their share of harsh sentences," he said.

Prince Albert defence lawyer Greg Chovin agreed.

"To simply take that away, it seems to me where we're heading is the point where we don't need judges, we just need a computer program to plug in numbers and mechanically come up with a sentence," he said.

He said two-for-one credit for time served in remand is hardly normal practice, and many judges will already grant one-for-one or a different ratio depending on the crime and the length of delays.

"To simply sit there and say it's the law that you get 2-1 credit, that's never been the case," he said.

Peter Burns, a lawyer with legal aid, said the law will also mean people awaiting trial will be treated more harshly than those already proven guilty.

Once sentenced, offenders can earn up to one-third of their release through good behaviour, something that's not possible in remand, and Burns said those in remand live in worse conditions without access to programs.

"They're housed, generally speaking, worse than someone serving a sentence, and they have fewer privileges," he said.

He said it will also further impact the poor, who can't pay their bail.

tholloway@paherald.sk.ca

Organizations: House of Commons, University of Saskatchewan, Prince Albert

Geographic location: Saskatchewan

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Recent comments

  • Keeper
    December 29, 2009 - 11:10

    Since this initiative all over the country the populations inside of remand centres have been drastically declining. I don't think that people understood just how common it has been to manipulate the system into giving 2 for 1 credit in the past, even 3 for 1 in many cases. The criminals seem to be getting their cases dealt with in an expedient manner now so they can do their time in a serving centre with proper programs and privelages, as it should be.

  • an indian
    December 03, 2009 - 15:13

    We wouldn't be in this position,if only the judges made very sound judgements,but recently we have judges having huge amounts of cases bought before them.And in most cases people agree with the prosecutions deal,and take it..Is this right.Where's the those famous words of wisdom."Everyone is innocent until proven guilty"or is it."Guilty until proven innocent"Whatever,Yep ! I to beleive we should should put our trust now computers.Put all info in,and see what kind of verdict comes back.All informations from R.C.M.P.,Courts,and Lawyers.

  • Harold
    November 20, 2009 - 11:43

    could the Herald not have gotten a more reputable lawyer to comment on this story than Greg Chovin. Isn't he the guy who killed a woman than got away with it on a technicality?

  • MY
    November 20, 2009 - 08:14

    DO CRIMINALS HAVE ACCESS TO COMPUTERS OR NEWSPAPERS OTHER THAN PHONE CALLS AND LETTERS MAYBE IF THEY DID. THEY WOULD TAKE THE TIME TO THINK WHATS IN THIS WORLD AND MORE. THE PEOPLE THAT READ THESE COMMENTS IS NOT FAIR TO OTHER HUMAN BEING THAT ARE IN JAIL, I DON'T TAKE PART IN JAIL PEOPLE I BROUGHT UP 3 KIDS AS A SINGLE PARENT AM PROUD OF THEM ALL HAVE THEIR OWN LIVES NOW AND ME STILL SINGLE AND WORKING, AT ONE TIME IN MY LIFE I WORKED WITH SASK JUSTICE I GOT FRUSTRATED WITH JUDGES AFTER JUGDES ESPECIALLY IN THE NORTH WHERE THEY PARDON EVERY ONE AND THEN 2 WEEKS LATER THE SAME PERSON COMMITS THE SAME CRIME ESPECIALLY THE YOUNG PEOPLE. MY CONCERN IS IF THE JUDGE IS CONCERNED ABOUT THEIR AGE RIGHT AWAY HEY WHY DON'T THEY DO JAIL TIME RIGHT AWAY ON WEEKENDS.

  • Larry
    November 20, 2009 - 06:51

    Sucks to be a criminal, eh?

  • MY
    November 19, 2009 - 22:59

    DO CRIMINALS HAVE ACCESS TO COMPUTERS OR NEWSPAPERS OTHER THAN PHONE CALLS AND LETTERS MAYBE IF THEY DID. THEY WOULD TAKE THE TIME TO THINK WHATS IN THIS WORLD AND MORE. THE PEOPLE THAT READ THESE COMMENTS IS NOT FAIR TO OTHER HUMAN BEING THAT ARE IN JAIL, I DON'T TAKE PART IN JAIL PEOPLE I BROUGHT UP 3 KIDS AS A SINGLE PARENT AM PROUD OF THEM ALL HAVE THEIR OWN LIVES NOW AND ME STILL SINGLE AND WORKING, AT ONE TIME IN MY LIFE I WORKED WITH SASK JUSTICE I GOT FRUSTRATED WITH JUDGES AFTER JUGDES ESPECIALLY IN THE NORTH WHERE THEY PARDON EVERY ONE AND THEN 2 WEEKS LATER THE SAME PERSON COMMITS THE SAME CRIME ESPECIALLY THE YOUNG PEOPLE. MY CONCERN IS IF THE JUDGE IS CONCERNED ABOUT THEIR AGE RIGHT AWAY HEY WHY DON'T THEY DO JAIL TIME RIGHT AWAY ON WEEKENDS.

  • TSK
    November 19, 2009 - 09:45

    It's about time this happened!! I am so sick and tired of hearing about people having shortened sentences with the 2 for 1 deal..If people don't like being held on remand and getting day for day, then they should NOT be out there committing crimes!!! Think before you act people and you won't find yourselves in this predicament. I know for a fact that most criminals drag out their proceeedings, as well as judge shop , simply for the fact of that 2 for 1 remand time consideration. Lets stop the nonsense and have people held acountable for their actions. Maybe if remand wasn't such a sweet deal more people wouldn't be out there offending!! Finally some legislation is passed that makes 100% sense!!

  • Al
    November 19, 2009 - 07:44

    This is definitely a step in the right direction. I'm glad this bill passed and hopefully the others that are still to be voted on will pass as well.

  • rick
    November 19, 2009 - 00:12

    i think it's good that they passed the bill. they should have taken all the credits away. we have all heard how prisoners stall their day in court so they stay out of jail and get credited for wiating. and i think that judges make some pretty messed up calles on their convictions, early release, and placement of violent and sexuall offenders. do they ever release any of these bad guys in thier own nieghborhood