Department of Justice Canada

Department of Justice Canada

April 22, 2010 10:46 ET

Government Introduces Bill to End House Arrest for Property and Other Serious Crimes by Serious and Violent Offenders

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - April 22, 2010) - The Honourable Rob Nicholson, P.C., Q.C., M.P. for Niagara Falls, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, and the Honourable Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu, Senator, today announced the re-introduction of legislation to end the use of house arrest for property and other serious crimes by serious and violent offenders.

"Our Government shares the common-sense belief of Canadians, that the punishment should fit the crime – especially when it comes to serious and violent offences," said Minister Nicholson. "This legislation would make it clear to the courts that those who commit serious property and violent offences will serve jail time, and house arrest will no longer be an option."

In 2006, the Government introduced legislation to eliminate the use of conditional sentences for any offence for which there was a maximum sentence of 10 years. During the parliamentary process, that legislation was amended, removing some of the serious offences that were proposed for ineligibility. As a result, offenders convicted of some serious property and violent offences – including among other things, aggravated assault, human trafficking, luring a child, street racing causing death, arson, fraud, counterfeiting, and extortion – remain eligible for conditional sentences, including house arrest.

"Our government is taking further action to crack down on crime and to protect the safety and security of our communities," said Senator Boisvenu. "The proposed legislation would ensure that house arrest is no longer used for offences that pose a significant risk to law-abiding citizens."

"The current legislation has not sufficiently restricted access to conditional sentences for offenders who commit serious and violent offences, including repeat offenders," said Heidi Illingworth, Executive Director of the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime. "Victims feel distress when they see offenders, not only those responsible for their own victimization, but also those who commit other serious crimes, sentenced to 'house arrest.' This proposed change will address concerns that some victims and survivors of violent crime have expressed to our organization."

"Chronic and violent offenders rotate in and out of the correctional and judicial systems, creating a sense of frustration among police personnel and fostering uncertainty and fear in our communities," stated Charles Momy, President of the Canadian Police Association. "This is a positive step to address the revolving door justice system and instil meaningful and proportionate consequences for serious and violent crimes."

An online version of the legislation will be available at www.parl.gc.ca

(Version française disponible)

BACKGROUNDER:  Conditional Sentencing Reform

As part of its commitment to crack down on crime and ensure the safety and security of Canadians, the Government has re-introduced legislation that would restrict the use of conditional sentences. A conditional sentence is a sentence of imprisonment of less than two years that may be served in the community – for example, under house arrest – provided several pre-conditions are met.

The amendments will remove the reference to Serious Personal Injury Offence in the Criminal Code and instead make it clear that conditional sentences are not available for the offences listed below.

All offences for which the law prescribes a maximum sentence of 14 years or life including:

  • aggravated assault
  • arson
  • fraud
  • making or possessing counterfeit money
  • perjury
  • acts of piracy
  • use of airgun or air pistol causing bodily harm
  • endangering safety of aircraft/airport
  • failure to stop at scene of accident – causing death
  • dangerous operation of a motor vehicle - street racing causing death
  • accessory after the fact to murder
  • robbery or break and entry to steal a firearm
  • hostage taking
  • extortion

Offences prosecuted by indictment and for which the law prescribes a maximum sentence of imprisonment of 10 years that

  • result in bodily harm
  • involve the import/export, trafficking and production of drugs
  • involve the use of weapons.

Offences listed below for which the law prescribes a maximum penalty of 10 years when prosecuted by indictment

  • Prison breach
  • Luring a child
  • Criminal harassment
  • Sexual assault
  • Kidnapping, forcible confinement
  • Trafficking in persons - material benefit
  • Abduction
  • Theft over $5000
  • Breaking and entering with intent
  • Being unlawfully in a dwelling-house
  • Arson for fraudulent purpose.

The Current Law

Currently, in order for the courts to impose a conditional sentence:

  • the offence must not be punishable by a mandatory minimum sentence;
  • the court must impose a sentence of imprisonment of less than two years;
  • the court must be satisfied that service of the sentence in the community will not endanger the safety of the community;
  • the court must be satisfied that a conditional sentence would be consistent with the fundamental purpose and principles of sentencing;
  • the offence is not:
    • a serious personal injury offence,
    • a terrorism offence, or
    • a criminal organization offence; and punishable by a maximum of 10 years and prosecuted by indictment.

Contact Information

  • Office of the Minister of Justice
    Pamela Stephens
    Press Secretary
    613-992-4621
    or
    Department of Justice Canada
    Media Relations
    613-957-4207
    www.canada.justice.gc.ca