Wednesday, September 28, 2011

 

BCSC's chief justice was remarkably candid given that judges rarely comment on political issues and that controversy is raging over Harper's crime bill.

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BC Mary comment: When Ian Mulgrew writes a new column, I pay special attention. And here's why: because Ian Mulgrew is the only journalist who picked up on my finding: that "Mr Big" i.e., Jasmohan Singh Bains (the guy police were tracking when they raided the BC Legislature) had been put on trial for drug trafficking, found guilty, and sentenced to 9 years plus heavy fine. That's correct: Mulgrew was the ONLY Big Media journalist who filed that  significant story, even crediting me with the finding. Even so, it was Feb. 17, 2009 edition of Vancouver Sun (8 months after the trial) before Ian Mulgrew wrote that first and only mention of this significant figure (who also happens to be Dave Basi's cousin) in the BC Rail story. I understand that Bains has long ago been paroled ... but we don't hear about that, either. Things like this still make me go Hmmmmmm ...
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Opinion: B.C. judge deems Harper’s crime bill ‘strain’ on system

Chief justice’s remarkably candid comments are further evidence of growing concern that more discussion needed on controversial measures


By Ian Mulgrew,
Vancouver Sun - Sept 28, 2011


The federal Conservatives limited debate on their sweeping omnibus crime bill on Tuesday, at the same time as B.C.’s top trial judge was raising concerns about its consequences.

B.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Bauman flashed an ever-so-subtle “danger” sign at Ottawa over its 102-page plan to put more people in jail for longer.

“Certainly it will put a strain on [the bench],” he said in a conversation with CKNW radio host Bill Good Tuesday.

“It will put a strain on Corrections Canada and on the corrections in British Columbia actually housing these people. Those issues are probably even more serious than the strain on my court from the point of view of a manpower issue.”

The chief justice was remarkably candid given that judges rarely comment on political issues and that controversy is raging over the crime bill.

He underscored the views of correctional officers who insist jails and prisons are already bursting and that without more cell space, the new mandatory sentences will worsen the overcrowding problem.

If nothing else, Justice Bauman’s comments were further evidence of the growing concern that more discussion, not less, is needed on these controversial law-and-order measures.

The raft of changes the Tories are ramming through the Commons includes nine bills that died with the old minority Parliament.

But the ability of MPs to review and scrutinize the contents of this all-inclusive package has been severely curtailed for no good reason.

Passing the legislation within 100 sitting days was a Conservative campaign promise and Justice Minister Rob Nicholson says he intends to deliver — sensibilities be damned.

The Tory MPs used their majority Tuesday to restrict debate and pave the way for the bill, though its stiffer sentencing measures ignore the best evidence on public safety, crime prevention and corrections.

There also are absurd anomalies in the hodgepodge — pot growers are being penalized more harshly than child molesters.

Nor has the government provided a clear cost estimate for this punishment-oriented approach that will put taxpayers on the hook for billions in correctional spending because of the vast increase in mandatory sentencing.

Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page is investigating that aspect of the legislation and hopes to report back in 60 days.

The lack of proportionality, perspective and other flaws in the government’s approach discourage non-partisan support for measures in the grab bag that are positive — new offences to protect children, putting victims’ rights in the parole process into law, and changes to lengthen the time period in which offenders must show good behaviour in order to become eligible for parole.

But perhaps more importantly, the federal strategy seems bereft of any understanding of what’s happening in the provinces, which are responsible for delivering justice and maintaining the legal system.

And that may have triggered Justice Baumann’s restrained but sharp comments.

The B.C. legal system has been subjected to severe restructuring and cutbacks since the provincial Liberals took office a decade ago.

The problems have made headlines, be it courtrooms closing because of a shortage of sheriffs or dockets so clotted you can’t get a trial date in less than year.

Cases are regularly thrown out in Provincial Court because it has taken too long for them to get to trial. Heck, we had a riot in Vancouver and three months later, not a single charge has been laid yet.

And generally, too many serious cases take far too long to prosecute — three to five years is standard, and sometimes it’s much longer, as in the case of BC Rail.

As Justice Bauman said, Parliament and the legislatures have a constitutional obligation to ensure that the judiciary, which is a separate and independent pillar of our government, is able to bring people to justice in a timely fashion and that citizens have access to justice.

Both the criminal and civil legal systems are cornerstones of a civil society and they are both in jeopardy.

This crime bill will not make the country safer — we are already experiencing the lowest crime rates since 1973. It will exacerbate the problems.

In Canada, we need a serious discussion about how to fix the legal system, not a slew of ideologically driven laws that handcuff judges and drive up the prison population.

Source is HERE:

http://www.vancouversun.com/Opinion+judge+deems+Harper+crime+bill+strain+system/5467361/story.html

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Comments:
As Justice Bauman said, Parliament and the legislatures have a constitutional obligation to ensure that the judiciary, which is a separate and independent pillar of our government, is able to bring people to justice in a timely fashion and that citizens have access to justice.

That may very well be the thin edge of the wedge for a constitutional override to the crime bill....not that this will stop the bill being passed tomorrow now that closure's been called. But it could overthrow the legislation - raising further questions about the costs spent by the time it's overruled. And because of the "bundling" of the marijuana sentencing with all t he nasty stuff, it means the WHOLE crime bill could (should) be tossed out by the Supreme Court.

WHO would launch such an appeal is hard to say, and how long it take even dicier - but one thing's for sure, once Harper has his pick of judges on the SCC there's no hope of any change to anything he does.

The other constitutional challenge that needs launching is on the anti-drug laws themselves; either to decriminalize and/or legalize Schdule III and Schedule IV items (marijuana and anabolic-androgenic steroids...mushroosm are I think in a higher category...so to speak) or the whole shebang (heroin, coke, psychedelics, prescription drugs). Victimless crimes are inherently contrary to human rights, especially when medical and clinical benefits are why people take them (which is the case with many mairjuana users, as also is the case with steroid usage).

The great and utterly whacko absurdity, as Mulgrew points out, is that sentences for marijuana growers are now higher than for child molesters......
 
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