Dangerous offenders in Canada

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When someone is convicted of a crime under the Criminal Code of Canada, there are certain situations under which he might be designated a “Dangerous Offender,” or “DO”.  The Crown prosecutor makes an application to have this designation applied to the offender if it is believed that the release of the offender at the end of the sentence would pose a significant danger to the public safety.

Offenses that can precipitate the DO application process include serious personal injury offences.  This can include certain sexual assault offense or any violent offense that carries a sentence of at least 10 years.  It doesn’t matter whether the act was a one-time offense or whether it was a repeated series of offenses.  The nature of the offense is what determines whether the DO designation may apply, not the number of offenses.  The important criteria is whether the offender poses a serious threat to other people.

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If the offender is granted the DO designation, the designation is for life.  What that means is that no matter what the offense was, the offender may be incarcerated for an indeterminate time.  This is in contrast to those who do not have this designation.  Non-Dos are sentenced to a finite sentence and are eligible for parole after a pre-determined amount of the sentence has been served.  In the case of Dos, they can still apply for parole, but not until at least seven years after their custody began.  To be granted parole, the onus is on the offender to prove that he is no longer a danger to others.

As mentioned, it is the responsibility of the Crown Prosecutor to initiation the DO application process.  The application must be made at the time of sentencing or up to six months afterwards if new information arises that could bolster the case to assign the DO designation to the offender.

How does the designation process work?

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If the Crown believes the designation is warranted and the sentencing court agrees that the crime falls under the category of a serious personal injury offense, a psychiatric assessment will be ordered.  Once the assessment is completed and the report is submitted to the court, the Crown will use the information contained in the report to determine whether the DO designation is warranted.  From there, the Crown must get the written approval of the Attorney General in the province before proceeding.

In Canada, those with a criminal record can generally apply for a pardon (or record suspension) after certain criteria are met following their serving of their sentence.  Dangerous offenders, however, are not eligible for Canadian pardons even if they are granted parole.  For example, if a dangerous offender was convicted of a sex crime, their information will be entered into the sex offender database and that information will not be hidden from criminal background checks.