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Supreme Court of Canada to decide whether to reinstate judge's sentencing powers

Last Updated Apr 14, 2016 at 11:47 pm PDT

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The BC Civil Liberties Association wants one-year-minimum sentences for drug crimes to be struck down.

Lawyers want time spent in pre-trial custody to be considered as worth more than standard time in jail.

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – How much leeway should a judge have during sentencing? That’s a decision the Supreme Court of Canada will be issuing Friday morning.

Two cases have come before the court thanks to the previous Conservative government’s legislation get-tough-on-crime efforts.

One law imposed one year minimum sentences for people convicted of drug offences.

Laura Track, with the BC Civil Liberties Association which is an intervener in the cases, says a lower court judge believed the minimum one year sentences for people caught with drugs should be struck down. That judge was dealing with someone from the Downtown Eastside who was addicted to drugs.

“The trial judge found that to be unconstitutional and an unreasonable response to what is really a health and social problem – not a problem that can be dealt with in the criminal justice system.”

The other law being challenged is one that bars judges from considering time spent in custody awaiting trial as counting as time-and-a-half towards the actual sentence.

Track says there’s good reason time spent in custody awaiting trial is usually regarded as worth more time than standard jail time. “The conditions in remand are well-known to be over-crowded, dangerous, and violent. People are crammed in double or tripled-bunked cells.”

The BCCLA intervened to argue that denying offenders enhanced credit for time served in pre-sentence custody can result in grossly disproportionate sentences that violate the Charter and amount to cruel and unusual punishment.