Conditional Sentencing in Canada: an Overview of Research Findings

3. Usage of Conditional Sentences 1996-1999

3. Usage of Conditional Sentences 1996-1999

Introduction

Since the conditional sentence of imprisonment is a new sanction, provincial and territorial correctional data-bases have not yet fully automated data collection. For this reason, the Department of Justice Canada, in co-operation with the provincial and territorial correctional representatives, conducted a manual survey of conditional sentences imposed to date. By 2001, it is anticipated that conditional sentences will be integrated into the Adult Criminal Court Survey (ACCS) located in the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, a division of Statistics Canada. When this integration process is complete, information on conditional sentences will be available in the annual Centre publication entitled “Adult Criminal Court Statistics”, which is part of the Juristat series.

It is important to point out that the trends presented in this chapter derive from the period prior to the Supreme Court judgement in R . v. Proulx. Since that judgement contained important guidance for trial judges, it is likely that the nature (and duration) of conditional sentence orders imposed will change significantly. The data summarized in this report serve as a comparison for trends in conditional sentencing in the post-Proulx period.

3.1 Volume of Conditional Sentences Imposed

September 1999 marked the three-year point in the new conditional sentencing regime. After three years of implementation, 42,941 conditional sentences of imprisonment had been imposed across the country.

Table 3.1 provides a breakdown of the conditional sentences imposed by province and territory over the three-year period. As can be seen, the highest numbers of conditional sentences were imposed in Quebec (12,690) and Ontario (11,443). Together, these two provinces accounted for fully 55% of all conditional sentence orders imposed (Table 3.1).

Table 3.1 Number of Conditional Sentence Orders by Province and Territories (1996-1999)
Province/Territory # of Orders Imposed
Newfoundland 1,078
Nova Scotia 1,486
Prince Edward Island 101
New Brunswick 1,578
Quebec 12,690
Ontario 11,443
Manitoba 1,245
Saskatchewan 3,121
Alberta 3,414
British Columbia 6,334
Northwest Territories 146
Yukon 305
TOTAL 42,941

Over the last twelve-month period of this analysis (September 1 1998-August 31, 1999), the use of conditional sentences varied considerably. In the Northwest Territories, there was no change in the number of conditional sentences imposed. Elsewhere the increases ranged from 15% in Alberta to 31% in Manitoba. These trends may reflect reaction from the Courts of Appeal across the country. It is hard to tell on the basis of a single year, whether these differences represent longer term trends across the country. Once conditional sentences have been integrated into the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics data-base, we shall be in a better position to evaluate the usage of conditional sentences.

3.2 Breakdown of Sentences across Offence Categories

Table 3.2 provides a breakdown of the percentage of conditional sentences imposed across a number of offence categories. This table reveals that the category of property crime accounts for the highest percentage of orders imposed (39%), followed by personal injury offences (31%). These two categories of offence together account for 70% of all orders imposed. Offences involving drugs accounted for 11% of cases while against the administration of justice accounted for a further 8%.

Table 3.2 Number and Category of Offences Receiving Conditional Sentences by Province and Territory (1996-1999)
Province/Territory Offence Category
% Person % Property % Driving % Administration of Justice % CDSA[*] % Other
Newfoundland 27% 41% 2% 10% 11% 9%
Nova Scotia 28% 33% 6% 11% 14% 9%
Prince Edward Island 14% 65% 3% 5% 12% 1%
New Brunswick 35% 40% 3% 8% 8% 7%
Quebec 19% 41% 4% 1% 19% 17%
Ontario 32% 44% 3% 3% 11% 6%
Manitoba 39% 33% 3% 4% 21% 1%
Saskatchewan 39% 35% 8% 6% 4% 8%
Alberta 30% 51% 5% 5% 8% 2%
British Columbia 28% 37% 3% 6% 15% 11%
Northwest Territories 55% 22% 3% 12% 8% 0%
Yukon 31% 24% 6% 21% 3% 15%
AVERAGE CANADA 31% 39% 4% 8% 11% 7%

Table 3.3 gives a somewhat more detailed breakdown for selected offences and offence categories and includes the numbers of conditional sentence orders imposed across the country. This table shows that the most serious crimes seldom resulted in the imposition of a conditional sentence. For example, there were only 24 cases of manslaughter out of over 40,000 conditional sentences imposed over a three-year period (see Table 3.3).

Table 3.3 Conditional Sentences Imposed by Province and Territory (1996-1999): Selected Offences and Offence Categories
Province/ Territory Number and Type of Offences
Man-slaughter Person Property B&E Fraud Sexual Assault Family Violence Impaired Driving Dangerous Driving Administration of Justice CDSA Other
Newfoundland 134 282 77 124 107 81 15 11 123 127 112
Nova Scotia 337 218 146 123 72 42 49 159 207 133
Prince Edward Island 23 94 22 40 4 6 3 4 12 29 2
New Brunswick 3 440 340 148 148 112 21 18 120 120 108
Quebec 2,363 4,996 428 89 2,317 2,116
Ontario 7 2,732 1,827 725 2,525 886 132 258 390 1,304 657
Manitoba 3 227 235 107 69 97 152 11 23 55 255 8
Saskatchewan 1,073 486 382 209 145 193 59 191 128 255
Alberta 3 1,010 1,730 179 166 260 66
British Columbia 8 1,368 1,412 475 429 421 109 58 382 957 715
Northwest Territories 84 25 9 7 17 6 22 14
Yukon 86 34 11 28 9 19 63 9 46
TOTAL CANADA 24 9,877 11,679 2,102 3,702 1,870 239 730 908 1,772 5,727 4,218


[*] Controlled Drug and Substance Act

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