There are two possible outcomes of a judicial review hearing: either the offender is denied a reduction in the parole ineligibility period or the offender is granted a reduction. If the offender is denied a reduction, the jury must set a time in the future when the offender may make another application. The date for the next application must be at least two years after the current judicial review hearing. If the offender is granted a reduction, the offender may apply to the National Parole Board (NPB) for release on parole after the reduced number of years has expired (Department of Justice Canada, 1997c).

A favourable judicial review decision does not result in automatic release on parole. The National Parole Board conducts a risk assessment of the offender and its decision is based on the risk the offender poses to the public should he or she be released. Offenders who are paroled while serving life sentences remain on parole for life unless parole is revoked and the offender is returned to prison. The offender, in this case, returns to the prison. The Board has no role in the judicial review process. However, once eligibility is established, the law gives the Board discretion to grant or deny parole.

From the implementation of the faint hope clause until the end of July 1997, 328 inmates convicted of first and second degree murder became eligible to apply for judicial review. Out of the 328 inmates, only 82 offenders appeared before a jury. Of these, only 30% found themselves out of prison any earlier, and while 64 offenders received a reduction in parole ineligibility, only 3 (less than 10%) have encountered the law again - one for armed robbery, one for carrying a concealed weapon, and the last on a drug charge (D’Arcy, 1997). Interestingly, the number of jury reviews of life sentences under Section 745, and the applicants’ success rates, vary widely from province to province as can be seen in Table 1 below.

table 1

Note: Taken from National Parole Board, 1997, Table M-2.


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