David Wilks’ private member’s bill legislating a mandatory minimum sentence for kidnapping a child passed third reading in the House of Commons on Wednesday and is now one-step closer to coming into law..
Bill C-299 imposes a mandatory minimum sentence of five years on anyone who kidnaps a child under the age of 16, unless that person is the parent, guardian or has legal care of the child.
“Society must be assured that the crime of stranger kidnapping of a child under the age of 16 is dealt with severely,” Wilk told Parliament earlier this month. “This is why we must ensure that a mandatory minimum sentence be placed upon anyone convicted of this crime.”
The bill was introduced by Wilks, the MP for Kootenay-Columbia, following the kidnapping of three-year-old Kienan Hebert from his Sparwood home last September.
Hebert was returned home safe and without injury several days later. His kidnapper, Randall Hopley, was arrested and pleaded guilty to the abduction. He is undergoing a 60-day assessment to determine if he is a dangerous of long-term offender prior to sentencing.
Wilks’ bill was criticized by the opposition parties, who questioned the need for mandatory minimum sentences.
At a meeting of the Justice Committee on May 15, 2012, retired Supreme Court Justice John Major said a mandatory minimum sentence could be considered unconstitutional. He also said that sentences for kidnapping were already very harsh so that a mandatory minimum was likely not a deterrent, but that judges should be able to retain their discretion in handing out sentences.
Bill C-299 passed in the House with support of the Conservative Party. The opposition NDP, Liberals and Bloc Quebecois all voted against it.
It now goes to the Senate for debate and will likely pass there as the Conservative Party controls the upper house. Following that, it would receive royal assent.