As part of its so-called ‘Tough on Crime’ policy the Harper government amended the Criminal Code to restrict the credit for pre-trial detention granted at the time of sentencing. Historically, persons held without bail during criminal proceedings were considered to have served double the time spent in jail awaiting sentence. Thus, if at the sentencing phase it was decided a total sentence of two years was appropriate and the accused had spent six months in custody, a sentence of an additional year would be imposed. The new legislation provided that credit for pre-trial custody should be on a one for one basis unless circumstances stated on the record justified allowing a maximum credit on sentence of one and a half days for each day of pre-trial custody. This lead to debate in the courts as to what sort of circumstances could justify the enhanced credit and most courts required proof of the harsh conditions which are prevalent in pre-trial detention centres. Recently the Supreme Court made life easier for criminal lawyers by recognizing that normally a prisoner is given one third remission of a sentence, unless exceptional circumstances warrant serving full time. Thus, it was held that in most cases courts are justified in giving one and a half to one credit on the basis of the loss of early release during pre-trial detention.
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