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Judicial discretion for mandatory minimum sentences for murder would save $8.3M: PBO

Last Updated Oct 29, 2020 at 10:38 am EST

OTTAWA — The parliamentary budget office says allowing judges to use their discretion on whether to apply a lesser sentence for murder could save the federal government $8.3 million per year.

Independent Sen. Kim Pate last month reintroduced legislation that would let judges deviate from mandatory minimum penalties, including for murder, which carries a sentence of life in prison.

Pate and advocates who support the proposed legislation say mandatory minimum penalties do not allow judges to consider extenuating circumstances such as abuse and systemic racism in the criminal justice system.

The parliamentary budget office says that based on a similar law in New Zealand, it expects about three per cent of murder convictions would result in lesser sentences due to exceptional circumstances.

The result would be fewer people in long-term custody at federal correctional institutions as well as in parole programs, which is where the cost savings would come from.

Bill S-207, which would also apply to mandatory minimum sentences for other crimes, is being debated in the Senate.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 29, 2020.

The Canadian Press