Mandatory minimum sentencing requirements for drug offences came into effect last week, to the dissatisfaction of Canadian public prosecutors. They say it is adding pressure to a criminal system that is already overburdened.
The tougher sentences are meant to address serious, organized drug crimes. Sentences range from 6 months for growing 6 or more marijuana plants, to a minimum of 3 years in jail for running a potentially dangerous methamphetamine lab in a neighbourhood residency.
Public prosecutors say the new sentences may cause delays to the court system, as those who may have previously pleaded guilty for lighter sentences might now choose a full trial. The delay will potentially have serious effects on Canada’s court system, as the courts are already strained, dealing with a substantial increase in bigger, more complicated criminal cases. Public Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC) has set aside $6.5 million to deal with the predicted impact of the new sentences for the first year. Provinces and territories are also placed with financial burdens, as they have to pay for court administration services, as well as cover the costs of keeping more criminals in jail for a longer time
The government says these new sentences will help clamp down on organized crimes. Justice Minister Rob Nicholson justifies the tougher sentences on the basis that previous sentence were not doing enough to deter criminals.
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