08/29/2013 10:44 EDT | Updated 10/29/2013 05:12 EDT

Child sex crimes to draw stronger penalties, PM Harper vows

The Conservative government will bring in stronger penalties for people who commit sexual offences against children, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said today in Toronto.

But it's not clear when the legislation will be introduced. Harper said last week that he wants to prorogue Parliament and return for a throne speech to set new policy goals for the second half of his mandate. That involves going to Gov. Gen. David Johnston and asking him to prorogue.

Parliament was supposed to return Sept. 16, but the House and Senate won't be able to sit until after the throne speech.

Harper said he expects the throne speech to happen sometime in October. It likely won't be until mid- to late-October, and no new legislation can be introduced until then.

Justice Minister Peter MacKay was with Harper to make the announcement, pledging to offer help to victims and their families.

The new measures being proposed would:

- Require those convicted of child pornography and related offences to serve their sentences consecutively. A press release from Harper's office notes that would "apply particularly to offenders who have victimized multiple children."

- Increase maximum and minimum penalties for child sexual offences.

- Increase penalties for violation of conditions of supervision orders.

- Ensure that if a crime was committed while on parole or statutory release, it would be a mandatory factor to be considered in sentencing.

- Ensure that the spouse of a person charged with child pornography offences could be obliged to testify in court.

"I cannot even begin to comprehend why those who sexually prey on children do the heinous things they do," Harper said, noting there are "truly evil people out there."