Sunday, August 14, 2011
Lawyers' Group balks at Harper's get-tough-on-crime agenda
By Kirk Makin - Justice Reporter
The Globe and Mail - August 14, 2011.
HALIFAX - The country’s foremost legal organization has delivered a grim assessment of the Harper government’s get-tough-on-crime agenda, attacking mandatory minimum sentences and questioning Ottawa’s eagerness to put offenders behind bars.
With a series of blunt statements and policy resolutions, the Canadian Bar Association’s annual conference bristled at inaccessible courts, inappropriate jailing of mentally ill offenders and costly measures that threaten to pack prisons.
Resolutions passed by the CBA governing council meeting Sunday urged accurate costing of government measures and the creation of a “safety valve” that would permit judges to shuck off the straitjacket of mandatory minimum sentences in cases where it would cause an injustice.
Conservative Justice Minister Rob Nicholson arrives Monday to face questioning at the hands of his legal confreres, whose skepticism promises sparks.
Mr. Nicholson will almost certainly be called upon to address prison overcrowding, a proliferation of mandatory minimums, a lack of community resources to handle mentally ill offenders who languish in jails and the cost of the Tories’ tough-on-crime policies.
After several years of highlighting its crime agenda only to have opposition parties thwart the passage of its bills, Mr. Nicholson has pledged to bundle all of the unpassed laws into an omnibus bill that would become law within 100 sitting days of the new Parliament.
It includes eliminating pardons for serious crimes, adding maximum minimum penalties for certain drug offenders and sexual predators, and cracking down on bail for violent, young offenders.
The government has previously succeeded in passing laws creating new mandatory minimum offences, preventing offenders from being granted extra consideration for time spent in pretrial custody and eliminating early parole for first-degree murderers.
The CBA resolutions were passed unanimously after speeches that denounced the federal government for ignoring a host of data showing that Conservative crime measures run counter to expert opinion and falling crime rates.
The resolutions came on the heels of a Saturday speech in which Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin revealed that an international survey ranked Canada ninth out of 12 European and North American countries when it comes to access to the court system.
The finding – by the World Justice Institute – underlines the fact that justice is increasingly available only to the wealthy or a small minority who are so poor that they qualify for legal-aid programs, she said.
“This is not terrible, but it shows that we are not doing as well as we should,” Chief Justice McLachlin said. “I think the Canadian Bar Association and other groups concerned about justice have to recognize that this is an area in our justice system that needs attention.”
Chief Justice McLachlin urged lawyers to move forward swiftly with programs aimed at promoting access to the courts, including free “diagnosis” of legal problems, expanding legal-insurance plans and subdividing complex cases to make them more affordable, and providing services pro bono.
She also decried the number of mentally ill offenders who end up behind bars or in a “revolving door” where they spend time in police custody or jail and are released after a few days.
The issue is a top priority for police, prosecutors and judges she has spoken to, Chief Justice McLachlin said.
Among the problems, she said, is the lack of beds for mentally ill offenders requiring psychological assessments, particularly young people.
“We still have work to do,” the Chief Justice said. “But the good news is … there’s much more public awareness of mental illness and its interplay and how it affects the justice system ...”
The full story is HERE.
Footnotes: Big Media itself will be making more "insider" news this week, as FBI widens its U.S. inquiry into Rupert Murdoch's news empire (News Corporation) beyond its 9/11 hacking.
That story is HERE.
And in Norway, police have taken Anders Breivik back to the scene of his heinous crime to provide further information.
Click HERE for that story.
Its about time the govt cracked down on the lax court system where math and arithmetic are routinely twisted/offended in determining how long a convict must remain behind bars, only to reoffend.
BC Mary published without comment on JAn 10 2011 an Anonymous comment that Jas Bains, the Cocaine Czar in Waiting, was out walking the street within months of receiving his 9 yr prison sentence.
Someone else commented that a prisoner is able to get bail after serving 1/6 of thier sentence.
Hardly a deterant from engaging in destructive activities such as the Drug Trade, and all the deception, harm and misery that goes with.
On this one, I am with Harper.
Currently the court/penal system is a revolving door, a joke, and a costly one at that.
Imagine having to spend resources on the same offender, every month, only to find him, every month, continuing to offend, costing health services (ambulance, emergency, doctors time, etc), property damage (theft, insurance), and other emergency services (police), and the courts time (crown prosecutores, judges, support staff, probation).
A Portland Ore study found that each street person cost at appox 219K per annum. Anther study find that putting someone in jail costs 80K per yr.
Its a no brainer which is cheaper cost to society.
Enough is enough, Lock up those who cannot or will not play by the rules, and keep them there until they are ready to behave and stop being a drain on my and your wallets!!
The judge who granted BAIL to Bacon put many lives in danger by doing so. It could have been your son or daughter attending at that Casino, caught up in the cross fire.
Mandatory Mins and tougher Bail conditions are good for public safety.
Her words are pure public relations, nothing more. Ask yourself, what practical actions has she or her administration taken to make improvements?
I used to admire this woman, but the steady decline of confidence in the court's wisdom and ethics has convinced me that she's just talking. Then I began to take notice that she frequently accepted speaking engagements saying pretty much the same thing time and again, all of which received laudatory media reports.
It's all just words folks, not deeds.
Beverley McLachlin has been a member of the Supreme Court of Canada for 22 years, and Chief Justice for 11 years now. Under her "stewardship" the practice of law in Canada -- most notably in BC --has become increasingly dysfunctional and even corrupt. And certainly unaccountable.
Beverly McLachlin is also the chair of the Canadian Judicial Council, a regulatory body that supposedly rules on the conduct of judges. The Canadian Judicial Council is as lax a body as is the Law Society of BC. They only sanction a few judges/lawyers, usually those who are not part of the legal in-crowd. Many, many serious, valid complaints to the Canadian Judicial Council and to the BC Law Society go unheard, much less investigated or addressed.
McLachlin is also Chair of the National Judicial Institute, which bills itself as " an independent, not-for-profit institution committed to building better justice through leadership in the education of judges in Canada and internationally." What has this body done? Why aren't we, the people, hearing about their actions? Why has our system of justice become so corrupted?
When I speak of corruption of the legal system, I'm not just talking about drug dealers and criminals getting off light. In fact, that is the least of my concerns about the justice system. I'm talking about the utter corruption of the legal fraternity in British Columbia, and its impact on ordinary citizens.
Ordinary people are frequently caught in the internecine web of glib lawyers often through no fault of their own, where they suffer financial ruin trying to either get justice or protect themselves. There is no meaningful means of redress for harm done to a person by lawyers or by the legal system. The Law Society of BC is another PR machine for the legal fraternity.
A couple weeks ago, I heard the president of the BC Law Society being interviewed by CBC Radio about a matter they considered very important -- that they were getting some complaints from people that lawyers were being rude in emails! I am not joking. The head of the Law Society went on to say that he didn't see any of that rudeness himself, but nevertheless the BC Law Society would be instructing their members to be more polite.
What utter hogwash. This is the classic practice of deception, to be "forthcoming" about a minor issue, so that you look like a trustworthy, responsible organization doing the right thing. All the while, corruption reigns supreme and undeterred behind the scenes. Distraction is the name of their game.
This is the manner in which Beverley McLachlin operates. Here she is announcing an international study telling us what we already know, and by doing that, she receives kudos. For what? Announcing the results of an international body's condemnation of our justice system? I'll listen to her when she takes some concrete action.
Surely Beverley McLachlin should have some influence on the practice of justice in Canada, but strangely, in her 22 years on the Supreme Court of Canada, and especially in the last 11 years as Chief Justice she’s still “urging improvements be made”. She should wear the reality of the justice system's descent into corruption as a mantle.
"treating' the results does not really cure the disease.
The flagrant social inequities between the 'have mores' and the 'getting less' is increasing exponentially.
There will either be a more equitable distribution of wealth or, or increased rebellion such as being displayed around the world.
Canada is not immune, as the Toronto G20 show of force displayed.
The volcano is bubbling, the increasing discontent is fomenting, and electing hard core right wing governments only makes the situation more dire.
We cannot solve this dilemma by increasing the oppression.
However if you believe the environmentalists, volcanoes are necessary to build continents.
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