Pubdate: Wed, 28 Nov 2007
Source: Montreal Gazette (CN QU)
Copyright: 2007 The Gazette, a division of Southam Inc.
Author: Richard Foot, CanWest News Service
Bookmark: (Mandatory Minimum Sentencing)


Ottawa Adamant. Two Studies Ignored

OTTAWA - Federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson is pressing ahead with
plans to create mandatory minimum prison terms for drug crimes in
spite of two studies prepared for his own department that say such
laws don't work, and are increasingly unpopular as crime-fighting
measures in other countries.

"Minimum sentences are not an effective sentencing tool: that is, they
constrain judicial discretion without offering any increased
crime-prevention benefits. Nevertheless, mandatory sentences remain
popular with some Canadian politicians."

That's one conclusion of a 2005 report prepared for the Justice
Department, titled Mandatory Sentences of Imprisonment in Common Law

An earlier 2002 report, titled Mandatory Minimum Penalties: Their 
Effects on Crime, also
compiled for the department while the Liberals were in power, offers 
a similar view:

"Harsh mandatory minimum sentences do not appear to influence drug
consumption or drug-related crime in any measurable way."

Despite such conclusions, the Tories unveiled legislation last week to
create mandatory minimum prison terms for drug possession, production
and trafficking. The automatic minimum terms range from six months for
growing and selling a single marijuana plant to three years for
producing cocaine or crystal meth in a home lab. A clause in the bill
would allow judges to exempt certain offenders from jail if they pass
a court-monitored drug-treatment program.

The proposal has been widely criticized by criminal lawyers,
criminologists and at least one former Canadian judge.

Nicholson did not respond to a request for an interview on the subject
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