Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Crime, Police and Punishment

The "get tough on crime" horse is being beaten again.

1) SQ "Complete Investigations" [Full Pundit - Nov 10] Duly noted  The Montreal Gazette's Henry Aubin reports on depressingly familiar revelations from the inquiry into the shooting death of Freddy Villanueva by police in Montreal North last year. To wit: The Sûreté du Québec officer conducting an “independent” investigation of the matter gave the two officers involved “the opportunity to agree on a common version of the shootings” and meet with a union rep. The investigating officer later claimed, ludicrously, that the departmental policy to the effect officers involved in a shooting be “isolated” from each other really means they should be “isolated” from the scene of the crime. Also, he never interrogated the officers, instead taking their written statements at face value because — are you ready for this? — “we, the police, are honest.” Enough, says Aubin. It could hardly be any clearer that no one benefits when the police investigate themselves. [What a joke]


2) Tough on Crime Maclean's John Geddes asks Justice Minister Rob Nicholson for the evidence prepared by the 200-or-so lawyers under his employ to support the tough-on-crime measures in question. Mr. Nicholson's office concedes there is no such evidence, but argues, in the case of mandatory minimum penalties, that “if judges refuse to hand down sentences that fit the crime, ... the government [has] little choice but to legislate longer prison time.” Alright, says Geddes, so, how long are these too-lenient sentences in question? No idea, says Ottawa, astonishingly. “Nicholson’s office and his departmental officials admit they have not compiled statistics on typical sentences in convictions for most of the crimes they’ve targeted for MMPs.” Just... wow. As Geddes points out, these goobers may actually end up establishing MMPs well below the current average sentence! It's one thing to pursue cynical justice policies, knowing that — in the immortal words of Ian Brodie — it'll only boost Tory fortunes to be criticized by “university types.” It's quite another not even to be able to identify the supposed problem.

3) Jury Changes [CBC Radio - The Current with Anna Maria Tremonti]   The jury pool in Ontario could get a bit smaller in the coming weeks. A government bill now working its way through the Ontario legislature would prevent anyone who has been convicted of a criminal offense from sitting on a jury. The bill echoes a similar law in Alberta that also prohibits anyone facing a criminal charge that has yet to be proven from sitting on a jury. Across the country the rules on who qualifies to sit on juries varies and those convicted of serious criminal offenses with jail terms or hefty fines are usually disqualified.  Sanjeev Anand is concerned that governments are limiting the pool of people who are permitted to sit on juries. He says there are consequences for our justice system. Sanjeev Anand is a Law Professor at the University of Alberta and he was in Edmonton.

4) Gun Registry Last week Gun Registry was put to sleep in a remarkable free vote that saw a number of NDP and Liberals' in favour securing its passage.  Here are some points from the National Post Editorial on the topic. In the event that the federal long-gun registry is finally wiped out (in doubt as it must pass through the Public Safety Committee) after Wednesday’s startlingly strong House of Commons vote in favour of doing so, are there any lessons we can take away in exchange for the $2-billion we expended on the Liberals’ cosmetic Chrétien-era absurdity?

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