SCC to hear cases on pre-sentence custody credit for criminal offenders

Ottawa – On Thursday and Friday, January 23rd and 24th, the Supreme Court of Canada will hear arguments in two related cases: R. v. Carvery and R. v. Summers. The BCCLA is an intervener in both appeals.

The cases consider the ability of a trial judge to grant an offender enhanced credit for the time he or she spends in custody between conviction and sentencing. Until 2009, judges would commonly grant an offender credit of 2 days for every 1 day spent in custody between the date of conviction and the date of sentence. Judges would grant this enhanced credit because time in pre-sentence custody does not count toward parole eligibility and generally affords an offender less access to educational and rehabilitative programs that will assist with reintegration into the community.

In 2009, Parliament passed the Truth in Sentencing Act. The Act reduced the amount of enhanced credit a trial judge could grant to a maximum of 1.5 days. These cases consider the proper interpretation of that law and the circumstances in which a trial judge should grant the maximum credit allowed under Act.

The Crown will argue that judges should not grant the maximum 1.5 days of credit unless there are circumstances unique to the offender that justify enhanced credit. The Crown will also argue that circumstances that are systematic or universal to offenders (such as the conditions of custody or parole eligibility) should not be considered.

The BCCLA will argue that sentencing judges are entitled to consider both individualized and systematic factors in determining whether to grant the maximum 1.5 days of enhanced credit. The BCCLA takes the position that the Truth in Sentencing Act should be interpreted in accordance with the values and principles developed throughout decades of sentencing case law. In particular, the BCCLA states that the Act should be interpreted in a manner that is sensitive to the serious liberty interests at stake and should be aimed at determining a fit sentence that is proportionate to both the offence and offender.

The BCCLA is represented by Ryan Dalziel and Anne Amos-Stewart of Bull, Housser & Tupper LLP.

The BCCLA’s argument in the case is available here >>

What: Supreme Court of Canada will hear oral arguments in R. v. Carvery; R. v. Summers
When: Oral arguments begin on Thursday, January 23 at 6:30 am PST / 9:30 am EST
Where: Supreme Court of Canada (Ottawa, Ontario)
Who: Lawyers for the BCCLA available for comment