Department of Justice Canada

Department of Justice Canada

February 23, 2010 14:29 ET

Legislation Restricting Credit for Time Served Comes Into Force

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Feb. 23, 2010) - The Honourable Rob Nicholson, P.C., Q.C., M.P. for Niagara Falls, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, today welcomed the coming into force of Bill C-25, legislation that strictly limits the amount of credit granted for time served in custody prior to conviction and sentencing.

"Our Government is committed to ensuring that criminals serve a sentence that reflects the severity of their crimes," said Minister Nicholson. "Bill C-25 marks a significant achievement in implementing our tough-on-crime agenda."

This legislation provides the courts with clear guidance and limits for granting credit for pre-sentencing custody. Bill C-25:

  • makes it the general rule that the amount of credit for time served be capped at a 1-to-1 ratio (i.e., give only one day of credit for each day an individual has spent in custody prior to sentencing);
  • permits credit to be given at a ratio of up to 1.5 to 1 only where the circumstances justify it;
  • requires courts to explain the circumstances that justify a higher ratio; and
  • limits the pre-sentencing credit ratio to a maximum ratio of 1 to 1 for individuals detained in custody prior to sentencing primarily because of their criminal record or a violation of bail.

"Canadian people are dismayed when they see criminal sentences reduced because of pre-trial remand credit," Saskatchewan Minister of Justice Don Morgan said. "This legislation will help restore public confidence in the judicial system."

"Alberta has been in full support of this reform and it was an honour to appear before the Senate to speak to its merits," said Alison Redford, Alberta Minister of Justice and Attorney General. "Sentences must reflect the seriousness of the crime, and the damage inflicted upon victims and communities."

Bill C-25 received support from provincial and territorial governments, victims' associations and police forces from across the country during the legislative process. 

An on-line version of the legislation can be found at www.parl.gc.ca.

(Version française disponible)


Backgrounder: Credit for Time Served in Pre-sentencing Custody

Bill C-25, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (limiting credit for time spent in pre-sentencing custody)

Bill C-25 caps the amount of credit that can be granted for time served in custody prior to sentencing (remand custody) at a ratio of 1 to 1. For example, if an offender who served 9 months in remand custody is sentenced to 4 years imprisonment, the net sentence will be 3 years and 3 months (4 years minus 9 months). Only where circumstances justify it can credit for time served be given at a ratio of up to 1.5 to 1, and the courts will now be required to explain these circumstances.

Credit for time served by offenders who have violated bail conditions, or been denied bail primarily because of their criminal record will be limited to a maximum 1-to-1 ratio with no enhanced credit beyond 1 to 1 permitted under any circumstances. These amendments bring greater consistency and certainty to sentencing, and help address provincial and territorial concerns.

The Former System

According to the Criminal Code, if an individual who is accused of a crime is not granted bail, they are held in custody until they are sentenced. Under the former system, when sentencing took place, the courts often used a 2-to-1 ratio for the credit given for pre-sentencing custody. On rare occasions, the credit would be as high as 3 to 1 where conditions of detention were more difficult. Giving extra credit for time served had become the practice in order to take into account certain circumstances such as lack of programming or activities for inmates, overcrowding in the facility, and the fact that time spent in remand custody, unlike time spent in sentenced custody, does not count towards a prisoner's eligibility for parole or statutory release. Enhanced credit for time spent in pre-sentencing custody is seen as one of several factors that have contributed to considerable increases in remand populations over the past several years.

Provincial-Territorial Concerns

Correctional facilities in the provinces and territories are experiencing ever-increasing numbers of accused being held in pre-sentencing custody, to the point where the population in remand now exceeds the population in sentenced custody. The Federal/Provincial/Territorial (FPT) Sentencing Working Group and the FPT Heads of Corrections have explored contributing factors and possible solutions. There is strong support in the provinces and territories for limiting credit for time served as one way to help reduce the size of their remand populations.

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