Thank you, Mr.
Chairman, for the opportunity to speak to the committee about conditional
sentencing in Canada.
After briefly presenting some data to
set the context, we will look at conditional sentencing from two vantage
points: the courts and corrections. Our analysis was restricted to
provincial-territorial corrections, given that conditional sentencing applies
only to sentences of less than two years and that supervision is a
provincial-territorial responsibility. Throughout the presentation, I will draw
the committee's attention to any issues of data coverage and to circumstances
where particular jurisdictions may have been excluded from
Referring to the second slide in your package, we
see trends in police-reported crime rates since 1977. The key trends of note
are that the overall police-reported crime rate, shown in red, increased
throughout the 1970s and 1980s—and also throughout the 1960s, although this is
not shown on your graphic—then it peaked in the early 1990s and declined
throughout the rest of the 1990s. It has been relatively more stable since
This trend is mirrored in the police-reported
property crime rate, where a 6% drop between 2004 and 2005 put it at its lowest
level in more than 30 years.
The violent-crime rate is
shown in yellow. It increased fairly steadily for 30 years, also peaked in the
early 1990s, and while generally declining since the mid-1990s, it has been
relatively stable. Between 2004 and 2005, we did see increases in serious
violent crimes, such as homicide, attempted murder, serious assaults, and
Moving to slide three, this next slide also
provides some context, showing trends in the sentenced correctional population
under supervision. It shows average daily counts. Please note that there are
jurisdictions excluded from coverage, and they are noted in the note on the
The key points in the graphic are the green line is
the conditional sentence population, the blue line is the
provincial-territorial sentence custody population, and the pink is the
population on probation.
So on any given day in 2003-2004,
the average population on a conditional sentence was 13,285. The conditional
sentence population has almost doubled since 1997-98—up 95% since that first
full year of coverage. The average supervised population on conditional
sentencing, as you can see from that green line, has increased each year since
Referring to the pink line, we can compare
this to trends in probation, which have been relatively stable, fluctuating up
and down. As well, the provincial-territorial sentenced custody population was
down 31% over this same time period.
So with these trends,
what we have seen is a shift in the relative distribution of the sentenced
population over time. Conditional sentences represented 11% of the supervised
sentenced population in 2003-2004, up from 6% in 1997-98, while sentenced
custody was down to 8% from 10%, and probation was down to 81% from
Slide four gives you a closer look at those trends in
the provincial-territorial sentenced custody population and the trends in the
conditional sentence population. We've adjusted the scale so you can see the
trends more clearly on this particular graphic. You can see the upward trend in
the conditional sentence population and the downward trend in the
provincial-territorial sentenced custody population.
five shows that the decline we've seen in the sentenced custody population has
coincided with an increase in the non-sentenced custody remand population. What
this has resulted in is a negligible change in the overall
provincial-territorial custody population. So in 1994, adults in non-sentence
custody represented just over one-quarter of all those in custody; ten years
later, it was close to half.
Slide six is our final slide of context,
and it presents Canada's incarceration rates in an international context. As
you can see, when compared to the incarceration rates internationally, Canada's
rate is higher than those of many European countries but lower than in England,
Wales, and New Zealand, and substantially less than the rate in the United
On slide seven, now that we've set the context,
we'll turn our attention to our sentencing data. These data come from our
courts program, and we can look at conditional sentencing by offence type.
Let's start, though, with a few baseline statistics.
our courts data, we can talk about cases and we can talk about persons. For the
next several slides, we talk about cases and the most serious offence within
the case. In 2003-04 there were 13,267 cases that upon conviction resulted in a
conditional sentence. And 2003-04 is our most recent year of available data.
These over 13,000 cases accounted for 6% of all conviction cases for the
jurisdictions of coverage. Now, when we speak of persons, we have just under
10,000 whose last convictions in 2003-04 were conditional
For all of our court slides, we cover about 70%
of the national adult criminal court workload. We do not have conditional
sentence data for Quebec, and we do not have data for Manitoba, the Northwest
Territories, or Nunavut.
We can look at conditional
sentencing by offence type in two different ways. On slide seven, for example,
we can ask for which offence types was a conditional sentence awarded most
frequently upon conviction. We can also ask, of the total conditional sentences
imposed, what the composition was by type of event.
see from this slide that conditional sentences are not imposed with the same
frequency for all offences. Offences in this particular chart represent those
that are most often subject to a conditional sentence on conviction.
Approximately one-third of drug trafficking offences and other sexual offences
received a conditional sentence on conviction, and one in five sexual assaults
received a conditional sentence.
In addition to the two
sexual offences, there are four other crimes against the person offences in
this chart. There are other crimes against the person--robbery, major assault,
and criminal harassment. Between 8% and 13%, depending on the offence type,
received a conditional sentence upon conviction in
Some of these offences are of lower volume, so
while they may have been more likely to be subject to a conditional sentence on
conviction, they do not necessarily make up the highest number of offence types
within the conditional sentencing population.
In fact, if
you turn to slide eight, what you'll see here is that ten offence groups
represented the vast majority of the 13,267 cases, where a conditional sentence
was imposed on conviction in 2003-04. Almost one in five, 18%, or just over
2,400 cases of conditional sentences imposed were for drug trafficking
convictions under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. There are two crimes
against the person in this list of ten. In total, major assault and common
assault represented 17% of all conditional sentences imposed in
Moving to slide nine, let's now shift our
attention. Let's look at what our courts data can tell us about the factors a
court may consider when arriving at a sentence. There are many factors that the
court considers, and these can include the seriousness or gravity of the
offence, the degree of responsibility of the offender, and the nature of the
incident for which the accused is convicted.
data allow us to look at three possible mitigating factors that may be
associated with the imposition of conditional sentences: the type of criminal
procedure, the prior conviction history of the accused, and the final plea
entered by the accused. While not a definitive measure of the gravity of the
offence, one way we can proxy the seriousness of an offence is to look at the
type of criminal procedure that was followed--that is, was it summary or
From chart nine, we can see that slightly less than half, 47%, of the
convicted cases with a conditional sentence were proceeded by way of
indictment. Slightly more than half, conversely, were proceeded by summary
conviction. If you look at the list of offences, with the exception of drug
trafficking, break and enter, and fraud, the vast majority of many conditional
sentence were not indictable.
For the two violent offence
types in this list, that's major assault and common assault, at least
two-thirds of all conditional sentences imposed were for summary conviction
violations. Overall the total number of indictable offences is being driven by
drug trafficking, which represents 18% of all conditional sentences, of which
90% were proceeded by way of indictment.
there are a number of mitigating factors that the court considers when imposing
a sentence, as outlined in the Criminal Code, section 718. Prior conviction
history of the accused is another possible factor that we're able to look at
with our data. For this slide and the next two, our population is a person or
the accused. This is a person who received a conditional sentence during their
last appearance in criminal court in 2003-04. Here we're talking just under
Approximately half of all conditional
sentences were imposed on offenders with no prior conviction history. The
percentage with no prior conviction history, as you can see, varied by offence
type. Of note is the proportion of first-time offenders among the conditional
sentence population when we look at certain offence types. Approximately 50% of
persons sentenced to a conditional sentence for drug trafficking, fraud,
impaired driving, theft, and major assault did not have a prior conviction, and
64% of those convicted for sexual assault did not have a prior
If you look at slide 11, the type of final plea
is another mitigating factor listed for consideration when imposing a sentence.
The final plea entered by the accused is the third and final factor that we're
able to look at with our courts data. Again, our population here is the person
or the accused, but in this particular slide we're focusing only on those
offenders who were convicted of an indictable offence and sentenced to a
conditional sentence in 2003-04.
You will recall from an
earlier slide that just under half of conditional sentences that were imposed
were proceeded by way of indictment. Here we have just under 4,500 accused as
our population of interest. For this population, just under 4,500, the chart
presents the prior conviction history and the type of final plea entered.
Overall, six in ten had no prior conviction history, and almost 90% entered a
guilty plea. The data in the chart seemed to be suggesting that both the prior
conviction history and the type of plea may be factors considered at
sentencing. The vast majority, 95% of those with a conditional sentence for an
indictable offence, had either no prior conviction history or a plea of guilty
as a possible mitigating factor.
It's important to note as
well that there may have been other mitigating factors considered, but we have
only information on the three factors I have spoken of in our data set. For the
242 persons, the 5% on the chart, who were convicted of an indictable offence
without being a first-time offender or entering a guilty plea, there may be
other mitigating factors being considered. Unfortunately, we're not able to
Slide 12 we included for illustrative
purposes. Criminal Code offences that were listed in the Bill C-9 legislative
summary document have been applied to our 2003-04 data. The purpose was to
identify the number of persons who were given a conditional sentence for an
offence type that was included in that Bill C-9 summary document. It's
important to note that the list of offences that were subject to the Bill C-9
legislation were as specified in that legislative
Chart 12 indicates that almost one in three
persons, 29%, just over 2,800 people, sentenced to a conditional sentence in
2003-04 were convicted of a Criminal Code offence that was listed in the Bill
C-9 legislative summary document. For some further information we have also
listed it by offence type in the chart.
Although it's not in the chart, if we add
drug offences to the Criminal Code Bill offences, we see that half--that is, 4,865--of all
persons sentenced to a conditional sentence in 2003-04 were convicted of a Bill
C-9-listed offence or a drug offence.
We looked at the plea
and the prior conviction history previously for our data; we can do the same
analysis for this particular subpopulation. Once we took into account the prior
conviction history and the guilty pleas, there were 310 people of the 4,865 who
did not enter a guilty plea or who had a prior conviction history, and of these
310, the recorded procedure was summary for 110 persons, so we can't speak to
any of the other mitigating factors that may have been considered for the
remaining 200 people, for whom the procedure was either by indictment or
Slide 13 is our final chart from our courts data,
and it presents information on the length of supervision time ordered for the
13,267 conditional sentencing cases. As you can see from the chart, conditional
sentences are under supervision longer.
When ordering a
term of prison or a conditional sentence, the court may also impose a term of
probation to be completed following the completion of the more serious
sanction. Thus, a convicted person could be under sentence supervision for a
maximum of the combined total of these sanctions.
eliminated federal prison sentences--which are not subject to conditional
sentencing--cases that were sentenced to a conditional sentence in 2003-04
were, on average, in sentence supervision for approximately twice as long as
cases sentenced to prison. The total average ordered supervision for cases
sentenced to a conditional sentence was 453 days, compared to 223 days for
cases sentenced to prison.
We can see from the chart that a
term of probation was ordered for a slightly larger proportion of those
sentenced to a conditional sentence than of those sentenced to prison. When you
combine sentences, you greatly increase the average time the convicted person
will spend in supervision. The average ordered supervision time for an offender
sentenced to a conditional sentence and probation was 700 days; this was 36%
longer than for an offender sentenced to prison and probation. The shortest
average ordered supervision time was for an offender sentenced to prison
without probation; it was an average of 47 days.
three slides in our presentation, beginning with slide 14, make use of data
from our new integrated correctional services survey. This is a microdata
survey that follows individuals under the supervision of the correctional
system. As of 2003-04, the survey had been implemented in four jurisdictions:
Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Saskatchewan. Each
of the next three slides lists the jurisdictions covered in the title; we
cannot generalize beyond these jurisdictions.
presents the optional conditions attached to probation sentence and conditional
sentence. When we look at the optional conditions most frequently attached to
probation-only community involvements and those attached to conditional
sentences, we do see some differences. Over 60% of conditional sentences had a
reside or house arrest condition attached, and about one-third had a curfew
attached. These were not on the list of the most frequently attached conditions
for probation only.
Slide 15 also draws from our
corrections data and is for two jurisdictions. It refers to offenders who
completed a conditional sentence involvement in 2003-04. There were 4,300 of
these cases. We can see that just over one-third of the persons in these cases
were admitted to custody at some time as a result of a breach of condition
while serving a sentence. This breach was severe enough to reach a threshold
that resulted in an admission to custody. This is not an indication of the
total number of breaches, however. The proportion admitted to custody on a
breach, as you can see, varied by offence type--drug offences in this
particular list are at the lowest, and you can see that robbery is at the
Slide 16 is our final slide today. It also
uses our correctional data and it looks at the proportion of those who left
correctional supervision in 2003-04 and subsequently returned to corrections
within a twelve-month period. Here we're looking at reinvolvement after a
sentence has been served, and as we can see for the jurisdictions listed, the
proportion of probationers who returned to corrections within the twelve months
was a little lower than for those serving a conditional sentence, but the
proportions are quite similar. The blue line in this graphic represents
conditional sentence. The pink line represents probation. And the two
intersecting blue lines are for sentence custody.
proportion who returned to corrections after finishing a sentence custody was
much higher, around 30%. It's important to note with these data that we weren't
able to take into account any prior conviction history when we conducted the
Mr. Chairman, that concludes my presentation. My
colleagues and I welcome any questions from the
Thank you very