The Rants of Issachar

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Canadian Justice and the 'Faint Hope' clause

The National Post's Full Comment podcast had a post back in October about the section 745.6 of the criminal code, better known as the 'Faint Hope' clause.

The clause allows prisoners who have been sentenced to life in prison and are not eligible to apply for parole for a period greater than 15 years the chance to apply for parole after only 15 years. In short, the clause exists to allow the possibility of shortening the period of parole ineligibility.

However, parole is not automatically granted simply because an offender is eligible. The function of a parole board is to determine if an offender should be granted parole. This leads me to wonder what function the faint hope clause serves other than to add another layer of bureaucracy and complexity to the parole system. The clause seems to be little more than an "except in this scenario" add-on to the law. It serves no function other than to act as an added step for parole applications after 15 years in prison.

Consider the case of a man convicted of first degree murder. It is of no value to say that he cannot apply for parole until he has served 25 years because this simply is not true. He might not be be able to apply for parole until he has served 25 years. At the time of his sentence, no one knows when he will be able to apply for parole.

The clause was added when we (correctly) abolished the death penalty. I suspect that the clause was created solely because politicians were not willing to try to convince the public that 15 year parole eligibility for murderers was a good thing.

I find it almost self-evident then that the faint hope clause should be abolished so that stated parole eligibility will accurate reflect when a prisoner may apply for parole. If parole for some prisoners makes sense after only 15 years, then the law should be changed so that they may be given sentences that permit this in the first place.

:: posted by Issachar, 9:12 AM


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