MONTREAL — The Conservative government is moving to end automatic early parole for non-violent offenders in a move aimed at financial fraudsters following a spate of highly publicized scams.
With allegations of Ponzi schemes grabbing headlines in several provinces, the government wants to toughen rules that allow non-violent offenders apply for early parole after serving just one-sixth of their sentence, following a first conviction.
Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan said legislation would be introduced Monday that would make it harder for them to get out of jail so quickly.
“As Canadians have been made painfully aware over the last few months, not all criminals carry guns,” Van Loan said.
“Their weapons of choice may be phoney balance sheets or glitzy portfolios designed to deceive honest Canadians into handing over their hard-earned money, often their entire life savings.”
Currently, first-time criminals can get parole after serving one-sixth of their sentence under a provision known as accelerated parole review — unless they’re considered a threat to commit a violent crime.
Full parole generally comes after serving just one-third of their sentence, virtually automatic as the parole board currently has little leeway when it comes to non-violent offenders.
The government had been hinting at this policy change for months, as hundreds of investors were swindled in a variety of high-profile scams.
Van Loan said the change would also apply to other criminals, like low-level drug dealers.
“This would build on the government’s measures to ensure the punishment fits the crime,” Van Loan said.
Van Loan says the policy change would cost $60 million for the extended prison stays — which he defended as a bargain, given all the money that fraudsters steal from innocent victims.The Conservatives have introduced a series of crime measures over their time in office.
Last week, legislation received royal assent that will limit the amount of credit prisoners can get for time spent in custody before and during their trial.
Judges have normally reduced prison sentences by two days for every day a person spends in jail awaiting trial and sentencing. In some cases, that ratio has been 3-to-1.
Parliament’s budget office, Kevin Page, is working to tabulate the cost to taxpayers of the Tories’ crime agenda.