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Putting a price on human life


Last Updated: 21st October 2008, 3:41am
How much money does this province owe Sarah John?
It depends on how much value you put on a human life — and how much value you put on two.
The province has paid out before when that system went wrong.
Improperly incarcerated Guy Paul Morin was awarded $1.25 million. Steven Truscott $6.5 million. It’s still undecided how much Robert Baltovich will get. But he will get something.
What is Sarah John entitled to after losing her mom and grandmom and narrowly escaping a murderous attack herself?
Tory Opposition Leader Bob Runciman says plenty.
After all, he said, the court system put next door to her Scarborough family a man under house arrest who is currently before the courts on two serious counts of violent sexual assault.
Now that man is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the slayings of 20-year-old Sarah’s mother Suja (Susan) John, 43, and her grandmother Saramma Varughese, 65.
“I think it’s such an enormous failing of the justice system,” said Runciman, a former solicitor general.
Runciman, 28 years in the legislature, appeared to be the only public official to attend the extremely sad funeral in Markham yesterday — and his anger was boiling over as he continued to urge the government to hold an inquiry.
“People didn’t do their jobs,” he said. “The sanctity of a home was violated and a mother and grandmother were brutally murdered. Over my years as a justice critic and minister, I have seen a lot of failings of our justice system. But this is perhaps the most egregious.”
Runciman said this family should be taken care of.
“The government has compensated people for wrongful convictions to the tune of millions. This family should be given the same consideration.”
But it’s the lesson that needs to be learned which is most important.
“This case should be the catalyst for a firestorm of public outrage,” Runciman said. “But the government is stonewalling and most of the media is letting them by ignoring the story. The public has every right to know why this man was released and why the Crown didn’t appeal the decision.”
And if there is no satisfaction coming and if the government won’t address the issue?
“(The family) should consider suing the judge and the Crown,” he said. “Two lives have been lost and we can’t allow them to be lost in vain.”
In their names Ontario should demand no more house arrest or bail for those accused of violent crimes. And we should also demand an immediate change into the surety system that allows people out on bail so easily. It seems nobody keeps statistics on how many sureties were called in when a person breached bail conditions.
This should change and a special Crown should be appointed to focus on having hearings to get that surety money from those who violate bail conditions.
It would certainly send a message to parents that you could lose your house. And it would force judges to jail more suspects since fewer people would be willing to risk their surety.
A new office going after sureties could bring in millions, since many major crimes involve suspects on bail.
If Runciman had his way, that money and the proceeds from homes sold would be used to compensate innocent victims like Sarah John.