Pubdate: Sat, 16 Apr 2016
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2016 Winnipeg Free Press
Author: Jordan Press
Page: 23


Supreme Court strikes down previous government's laws

OTTAWA - The Supreme Court of Canada has struck down two federal laws
from the previous Conservative government's tough-on-crime agenda,
ruling both to be unconstitutional.

The decisions mean an end to rules for minimum sentences for specific
drug crime convictions and limits on credit for pre-trial detention in
certain conditions where bail is denied, giving trial judges more
leeway in how they deal with offenders.

In both decisions, the top court said Parliament has the right to set
laws to maintain public safety, but the rules should not be so overly
broad that they capture offenders whose incarceration would benefit
neither themselves nor the public.

Speaking in Waterloo, Ont., Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his
government is reviewing the laws around mandatory minimum sentences.

"There are situations where mandatory minimums are relevant," Trudeau

"The Liberal party of the past in government brought in mandatory
minimums around serious crimes like murder, but at the same time there
is a general sense, reinforced by the Supreme Court decision today,
that mandatory minimums brought in by the previous government in a
number of cases went too far. This is what we are reflecting on."

In a 6-3 ruling, the high court said a mandatory, one-year minimum
sentence for a drug crime when the offender has a similar charge on
their record constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, a violation of
section 12 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The majority ruled that mandatory minimums in this instance cast too
wide a net and catch conduct that can range from a "coldblooded
trafficker of hard drugs for profit" to someone who shares a small
amount of marijuana with friends. Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin,
writing for the majority, said that in the latter instance "most
Canadians would be shocked to find that such a person could be sent to
prison for one year."

The Supreme Court also unanimously agreed to strike down provisions
passed in 2009 that prohibited a trial judge from giving more than
one-for-one credit for pretrial detention if a justice of the peace
denied bail to the person because of a previous conviction.
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