Sunday, March 01, 2009

New Federal Bills on Gangs and Drug Crimes

Last week, the federal government moved forward on its criminal justice agenda.

It introduced new legislation to combat organized crime and gangs.

The Act to amend the Criminal Code (organized crime and protection of justice system participants) would:
  • make murders connected to organized crime automatically first-degree, subject to a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without eligibility for parole for 25 years;
  • create a new offence to address drive-by and other reckless shootings. This offence would carry a mandatory minimum sentence of four years in prison, with a maximum of 14 years; and
  • create two new offences of aggravated assault against a peace or public officer and assault with a weapon on a peace or public officer. These would be punishable by maximum penalties of 14 and 10 years respectively.
It also reintroduced legislation providing mandatory minimum prison sentences for serious drug crimes.

The Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act would introduce:
  • a one-year mandatory prison sentence for dealing drugs such as marijuana, when carried out for organized crime purposes or when a weapon or violence is involved;
  • a two-year mandatory prison sentence for dealing drugs such as cocaine, heroin or methamphetamines to youth, or for dealing those drugs near a school or in an area normally frequented by youth;
  • a two-year mandatory prison sentence for the offence of running a large marijuana grow operation involving at least 500 plants;
  • increased maximum penalties for cannabis production from 7 years to 14 years imprisonment; and,
  • tougher penalties for trafficking date-rape drugs.
The federal justice minister Rob Nicholson said the changes don't target drug addicts who may sell just to support their habit. The proposed legislation would allow addicts to be diverted to specialized drug treatment courts that could hand out suspended sentences if the addict goes through a treatment program.

Opposition parties have commented that they support the anti-crime initiatives in principle but some would like to examine the proposal for mandatory minimum sentences, which are very controversial, in further detail in committee.

The justice minister added that the organized crime and gang bill would not be treated as a confidence vote in Parliament.

Earlier Library Boy posts on mandatory minimum sentences include:
  • Library of Parliament Mini-Review of Mandatory Minimum Sentencing (March 22, 2006): "The document states that studies show that a direct cause and effect relationship between mandatory minimums and a decline in crime rates can not be drawn; as well, given the many factors that can explain crime trends, studies on the effects of such sentences are considered difficult to interpret."
  • Updated Library of Parliament Report on Mandatory Minimum Sentences for Gun Crimes (March 10, 2007): "The Parliamentary Information and Research Service of the Library of Parliament recently published an update to its legislative summary entitled 'Bill C-10: An Act to amend the Criminal Code (Offences Involving Firearms)': (...) The document includes sections on:History of Minimum Sentences for Firearm Offences; Constitutionality of Mandatory Minimum Sentences; Effect of Mandatory Minimum Sentences on Gun Crime ...; Effect of Imprisonment Generally; Incidental Effects of Mandatory Minimum Sentences; Description and Analysis."
  • Supreme Court of Canada Rules on Mandatory Minimum Sentences (March 3, 2008): "Last week, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled unanimously in R. v. Ferguson that Parliament has the right to create mandatory minimum criminal sentences and have those measures enforced by reluctant judges."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:01 pm


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