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SNELSON: How the sentence for a Kelowna killer breaks down

Neil George Snelson was convicted of manslaughter in the 1993 death of Jennifer Cusworth.
September 17, 2015 - 6:50 PM


KAMLOOPS — Convicted killer Neil Snelson was arrested in 2009, sentenced yesterday to 11 years in prison and will likely be released around this time next year.

Makes complete sense, right?

A jury convicted him earlier this summer of the 1993 killing of college student Jennifer Cusworth, ending one of the more confusing and prolonged courtroom sagas you'll ever see. His sentence makes little sense unless you understand the formulas used by judges and corrections officials to calculate 'dead time' and real time to come up with these numbers. We did our best to break it all down.

Prison time is a clock that starts the moment someone is arrested. The time amounted before trial and after trial differs in the eyes of the court. It’s a moving number that is crunched down after a person is convicted and sentenced for their crime; often it’s a struggle to calculate time a prisoner has actually served. In the case for Snelson, he already served nine years and three months of his sentence before he was even told what his sentence would be.

Time served is the period before and during an accused person’s trial. The courts refer to it as ‘dead time’ because an accused has fewer resources in jail than a convicted person. Provincial jails and federal prisons each have their own rehabilitation programs which include counselling and job training opportunities. But most of those options are limited to those who are guilty instead of someone who could be innocent. Since you’re innocent before you await trial in jail, most services are unavailable to you.

To make up for this fact, courts give extra credit for the dead time. Before now, each day of dead time counted as two days towards the actual sentence. In some cases it was three days to one if a person’s time in jail was seen as especially difficult. Legislation has changed since 2009 and now most offenders get one and a half days for each day of dead time.

In the case for Snelson, he got two days credit for his time in jail before trial.

But the math isn't so simple. Time for when he was released on bail, convicted, waiting on appeal and waiting for his sentencing after his second trial alter the calculation. 

The courts determined he already served 1,684 days in jail which translated to nine years and three months. Knocking that off his 11-year sentence, he has one year and nine months left to serve.

Any sentence over two years is considered a federal sentence, which would mean it should be served in a federal penitentiary. Since Snelson has less than two years left, the courts allowed him to serve it at Kamloops Regional Correctional Centre — a provincial institution for offenders serving similar lengths in sentence.

Offenders serving federal time are given the opportunity to apply for parole after completing two thirds of their sentence. With 21 months left to serve, Snelson will be eligible for statutory release after 14 months, or around November of next year.

So while it was an eleven year sentence, he will serve a total of less than six years behind bars. Or roughly as long as it took his case to wind through the courts. And far less than the 16 years it took for his case to get there.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Glynn Brothen at, or call 250-319-7494. To contact the editor, email or call 250-718-2724.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015
InfoTel News Ltd

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