Department of Justice Canada

Department of Justice Canada

October 23, 2009 10:05 ET

Legislation Restricting Credit for Time Served Receives Royal Assent

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Oct. 23, 2009) - The Honourable Rob Nicholson, P.C., Q.C., M.P. for Niagara Falls, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, and Mr. Daniel Petit, M.P. for Charlesbourg-Haute-Saint-Charles and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice today welcomed the granting of Royal Assent on Bill C-25, legislation that strictly limits the amount of credit granted for time served in custody prior to conviction and sentencing.

"This legislation is an important achievement in implementing our Government's tackling-crime agenda," said Minister Nicholson. "It better reflects truth in sentencing and gives Canadians greater confidence that justice is being served."

Once this legislation comes into force, the courts will be provided with clear sentencing guidance and limits for granting credit for pre-sentencing custody. These include:

- making 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);

- permitting credit to be given at a ratio of up to 1.5 to 1 only where the circumstances justify it;

- requiring courts to explain the circumstances that justified a higher ratio; and,

- limiting the pre-sentencing credit ratio to a maximum ratio of 1 to 1 for individuals detained because of their criminal record or because they violated bail.

"Canadians believe criminals must serve a sentence that reflects the severity of their crimes," said Mr. Daniel Petit. "This bill ensures that the courts will no longer be able to grant credit at a 2-to-1 ratio for pre-sentencing custody."

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

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)

Upon Bill C-25 coming into force, the amount of credit that can be granted for time served in custody prior to sentencing (remand custody) will be capped at a ratio of 1 to 1. 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 be required to explain these circumstances.

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). Credit at a ratio of up to 1.5 to 1 will only be permitted where circumstances justify it, and courts will be required to explain these circumstances.

Credit for time served by offenders who have violated bail conditions, or been denied bail 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.

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.

The Current Practice

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 current system, when sentencing takes place, the courts often uses a 2-to-1 ratio for the credit given for pre-sentencing custody. On rare occasions, the credit could be as high as 3 to 1 where conditions of detention are more difficult. Giving extra credit for time served has 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.

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Contact Information

  • Office of the Minister of Justice
    Pamela Stephens
    Press Secretary
    Department of Justice
    Media Relations