[Note: This topic iis a cursory overview only.]
Many jurisdictions have enacted procedures for the indefinite incarceration of individuals who pose extreme risk to the public. The Dangerous Offender Legislation (Section 753 of the Criminal Code of Canada) is applied typically to sex offenders, though other violent offenders may be included.
In fact, Canada has had legislation allowing for indeterminate detention of “persistent dangerous criminals” for many years, beginning with Habitual Criminal Legislation in 1947. Over the years, the legislation has been modified on a number of occasions and, most recently, between 1977 and 1997, a Dangerous Offender could be sentenced to either a determinant or indeterminate term.
A further revision, known as Bill C-55, was made in 1997 whereby the of rendering a Dangerous Offender finding would automatically result in indeterminate sentence.
In order to provide an alternative to indeterminate incarceration in the case of individuals who, though presenting a substantial risk to the public, nevertheless might respond to treatment, Long Term Offender legislation was introduced in 1997.
The criteria for a finding of Dangerous Offender are somewhat complex and may be found in the Criminal Code of Canada and in a publication by the Office of the Solicitor General: “High Risk Offenders”
The distinction between the criteria required for a Dangerous as opposed to a LongTerm Offender has recently been brought to the Supreme Court of Canada and decision is awaited. (Read the Justice Department's Backgrounder here.)
Essentially, the applications require mental health expert testimony to assist the Court in evaluating the level of risk that the defendant poses.
References & Further Reading:
"Dangerous and long-term offenders: An assessment guide".Eaves, D., Douglas, K. S., Webster, C. D., Ogloff, J. R. P., & Hart, S. D. (2000). Burnaby, BC: Simon Fraser University, Mental Health, Law, and Policy Institute.
© Stephen Hucker, MB,BS, FRCP(C), FRCPsych 2003 - 2011
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