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Tories Plan Three-Strikes Bill

[ Bill C-27: An Act to amend the Criminal Code (dangerous offenders and recognizance to keep the peace) passed first reading in the house October 17, 2006]

Tories plan three-strikes bill
Sept 20, 2006

OTTAWA — The federal government is preparing three-strikes legislation that would make it easier to label criminals as dangerous offenders after a third serious conviction.

Unlike California's famous three-strikes-you're-out law, the proposed federal bill will not trigger an automatic life sentence for repeat offenders. What it will do is reverse the burden of proof in dangerous-offender hearings for people already found guilty of three violent crimes.

That means that once someone has been convicted a third time, they will be considered guilty until proved innocent of being a dangerous offender.

The bill is part of the Conservative anti-crime package and will probably be tabled this fall, Justice Minister Vic Toews said today.

The new legislation would make it much easier for judges to slap three-time offenders with the designation which brings an unlimited prison sentence, although offenders could begin applying for parole after seven years.

“At present there is an onus on the prosecutors at all levels to demonstrate dangerous offender,” Toews said.

“We feel that once a person has been convicted three times, a presumption should apply that the individual is dangerous because a court has found that individual to be so.”

Toews said the law will apply to violent offenders and serious sex-offenders.

Currently, someone convicted of a violent offence can be declared a dangerous offender after a court hearing initiated by Crown prosecutors.

Toews said he has been consulting with provincial officials, as well as bureaucrats in his own department, on the legislation.

The promise was included in the Tory election platform.

Toews bristled at the suggestion that the new law bears any similarity to California's well-known 1994 legislation, which has inspired similar bills in other U.S. states.

The famous three-strikes law requires automatic sentences for offenders, meaning a judge cannot limit the prison term.

Ottawa's proposed federal law also kicks in after a third criminal conviction, and it stacks the legal deck against the criminal, but it doesn't force judges to label anyone a dangerous offender.

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