Bill S-6: Legislation to Repeal the Faint Hope Clause
What is the "faint hope clause"?
The "Faint Hope Clause" was the popular name for section 745.6 of the Criminal Code of Canada. This section allowed offenders, who were serving a sentence of life imprisonment with a parole eligibility period of more than 15 years, to apply for a reduction in the number of years of imprisonment without eligibility for parole once he or she has served 15 years.
What was Bill S-6?
Bill S-6 contained legislative changes that repealed the “faint hope clause” from the Criminal Code. Offenders sentenced to murder committed on or after December 2, 2011, will not be eligible to apply for parole before the parole eligibility date determined when they were sentenced. This bill received Royal Assent on March 23, 2011, and came into force on December 2, 2011.
How will offenders sentenced for a murder committed after December 2, 2011, be affected by this change?
Offenders who are sentenced for first-degree murder committed on or after December 2, 2011, will not be eligible to apply for parole until they have served at least 25 years in prison.
Offenders who are sentenced for second-degree murder committed on or after December 2, 2011, will not be eligible to apply for parole until the date set by a judge at the time of sentencing, which could be up to 25 years.
How will offenders sentenced for murder committed before December 2, 2011, be affected by this change?
Offenders who are currently serving life sentences or are sentenced for murder or high treason committed before December 2, 2011, will still be able to apply for parole after 15 years in prison. If offenders did not make an application before December 2, 2011, the following new restrictions now apply:
An application must have a substantial likelihood of success for it to be considered. This is determined by a judge during a preliminary review.
- A new application must be made:
- within 90 days of the date marking 15 years of an offender’s sentence being served, or
- within 90 days of the new law coming into force, if the offender has already served at least 15 years.
- A second application must be made:
- within 90 days of the five-year anniversary of an offender’s last application or the date set by the judge or jury, if applicable. (The waiting period was previously two years.).
- An application that did not receive a decision before December 2, 2011, will be processed according to the provisions of the Criminal Code in place prior to the changes that Bill S-6 introduced.
- If such an application is turned down, but it is determined - at that time or as a result of a previous application - that an offender can re-apply, he or she may do so:
- at the end of two years, if no specific time period is set, or
- at the end of a specified time period set by a judge or jury. At that point, an offender will have 180 days to make another application.
A 90-day time limit for applying may be extended to a maximum of 180 days if an offender is unable to make an application within the 90 days because of circumstances beyond his or her control.
How will victims of crime be affected by this change?
Because offenders who are sentenced for murder committed on or after December 2, 2011, cannot apply for a reduction in the period during which they are ineligible to apply for parole, the number of parole hearings available to them is reduced; this reduces the number of hearings that victims may wish to attend.
If an offender who is eligible to apply for a judicial review does not make an application within the maximum time period allowed, CSC’s Commissioner or his/her designate will notify in writing a parent, child, spouse or common-law partner of the victim. If this is not possible, the notification will be sent to another relative of the victim. The notification will also specify the next date on which the offender will be eligible to apply again.
How will victims be notified if they are impacted by this change?
CSC’s Victim Services Unit will send a letter to all family members of murder victims who are already registered to receive information from CSC, as well as family members CSC has identified through a review of the offender’s file, to inform them of the legislation’s applicability in their case. If the family member wishes to receive this information, the Victim Services Unit will also provide them with subsequent information about offenders who do not apply.
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