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November 20, 2012

Earlier today, the Canadian Department of Justice announced that the final provisions of its omnibus crime bill, the Federal Safe Streets and Communities Act, eliminating conditional sentences for some serious crimes have come into force.  In making the announcement, Canada’s Federal Attorney General said:

“’Our Government has a strong record of putting victims first, getting tough on serious and violent offenders, and keeping our streets and communities safe’ … ‘House arrest should not be available for offenders of serious crimes like sexual assault, kidnapping, and human trafficking.  Those who commit these violent crimes must serve their time behind bars, not in the comfort of their homes and that is exactly the issue this legislation corrects.’”

On March 13, 2012, amendments to section 742.1 of the Criminal Code (the “Code”), which were part of the Federal Government’s omnibus crime bill (Bill C-10), received Royal Assent.  The changes also restrict the availability of conditional sentences for some Competition Act offences.

In particular, where a person is convicted of an offence and a court imposes a sentence of less than two years, the court may impose a conditional sentence (i.e., served in the community), except in certain circumstances.  These now include where an offence is an indictable offence with a maximum term of imprisonment of 14 years or life, which includes sections 45 and 47 of the Competition Act (conspiracy agreements and bid-rigging), as well as manslaughter, aggravated assault, arson and fraud over $5,000.

Other offences for which conditional sentences will not be available also include the following offences when prosecuted by indictment: prison breach, criminal harassment, sexual assault, kidnapping, human trafficking, theft over $5,000 and motor vehicle theft.

These changes to the Code will impact sentencing in competition law cases (i.e., eliminate the ability for courts to impose conditional sentences in some cases).  They may also influence whether cases go to trial (or settle) and whether individuals who are not eligible under the Bureau’s Immunity Program will cooperate with the Bureau under its Leniency Program, which, unlike the Immunity Program, requires guilty pleas (though individual liability is commonly sought to be negotiated out of sentencing).

For the Department of Justice’s news release and backgrounder issued today see: New Law Eliminating House Arrest for Serious and Violent Crimes Comes Into Force, Backgrounder: Safe Streets & Communities Act: Ending House Arrest for Property and Other Serious Crimes.

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