Interim Staff

Liberal MP Albina Guarnieri is not giving up in her fight to introduce legislation she hopes will eliminate “volume discount” sentencing.

Guarnieri (Mississauga East) first presented private member’s bill C-321 (formerly C-274) in May. It calls for Criminal Code changes which would end the practice of concurrent sentencing for serial rapists and multiple murderers. Concurrent sentencing allows these criminals to serve jail time for multiple crimes simultaneously. As a result, many repeat offenders serve only a fraction of their total sentence and are often eligible for early parole.

The bill has twice been selected for study by the Subcommittee on Private Members’ Business, but both times it was deemed non-votable. Guarnieri however, plans to raise the bill again when parliament reconvenes in December.

“I see the practice of concurrent sentencing for serial rapists and murderers as a form of bargain basement justice,” Guarnieri told The Interim. “Why should the second, third, or eleventh victim of a crime be treated any differently than the first?” She said the current practice devalues the lives crime of crime victims and imposes needles hardship on their families.

Guarnieri’s bill seeks Criminal Code changes ensuring that the mandatory portion of each life sentence imposed on a person convicted of a second murder be served consecutively before that person is eligible for parole. In effect, the bill would take each criminal into account when imposing sentencing.

Under Bill C-321, offenders such as Paul Bernardo – having committed two murders – would not be eligible for parole for at least 50 years, rather than the current 25.

Guarnieri said the bill would prevent needless hardship for victims’ families who would be spared the prospect of attending early parole hearings.

“It’s time to bring truth in sentencing to our justice system,” Guarnieri said. “The bill is an opportunity for the courts to stop risking lives on the chance that a serial rapist or murderer won’t attack again,”

Guarnieri said concurrent sentencing has tarnished the image of the criminal justice system in Canada. She also criticized members of the all-party Subcommittee on Private Members’ Business for rejecting the bill despite its having met all the criteria for presentation in the House of Commons.

“The subcommittee shouldn’t deny the justice minister and other MPs the chance to defy the predator-protection industry by voting to end volume discounts for rapists and murderers,” she said.

“In many ways the sentencing system has become a joke. It’s time for some significant changes that show greater respect for people’s lives.”

Guarnieri’s bill has the support of Debbie Mahaffy, mother of Bernardo victim Leslie Mahaffy, and a number of police and crime victims’ associations.