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An end to the ‘hug a thug’ era

Article by: TORONTO SUN
– Prime Minister Stephen Harper says the Conservatives will introduce legislation this week requiring repeat violent and sexual predators to prove why they should not be declared dangerous offenders and jailed indefinitely.

Police and victims rights groups have applauded the move as long overdue, while criminal defence lawyers attacked it.

Okay, let’s see now, cops and victims rights groups in favour, criminal lawyers (and all the other usual soft-on-crime suspects) opposed.

Hmmm. Who should we support? Thinking … thinking…

Okay, we’ve got it!

Make our day, prime minister!

Under Harper’s proposed law, someone convicted for the third time of a serious violent and/or sexual offence would have to prove to the court that he or she should not be designated a dangerous offender and jailed indefinitely.

This is known as putting a “reverse onus” on the criminal.

At present, the Crown has to prove a repeat criminal is a dangerous offender, a designation which requires such a high standard of evidence that it is rarely attempted, let alone imposed.

We were particularly amused to see the federal Liberals and Toronto mayor David Miller criticizing Harper’s proposal almost as soon as he announced it.

Remember in the last federal election when former Liberal PM Paul Martin and Miller, along with Premier Dalton McGuinty, announced they favoured placing a reverse onus on people accused of gun crimes who seek bail?

They said that following a wave of shootings in Toronto leading up to the horrible Boxing Day massacre on Yonge St.

So, to review, less than a year ago they advocated placing the onus on someone simply accused of a gun crime to prove he was not a threat before being granted bail.

But now they’re against a law to place a similar onus on repeat offenders who have not just been charged, but convicted of violent crimes not just once, but three times?

Talk about inconsistency! It just shows their original proposal was more about political expediency than principle.

Harper was also denounced by other members of the “hug a thug” crowd for proposing what they called ineffective legislation that will not survive a constitutional challenge and that mimics U.S.-style “three strikes and you’re out” laws.

In fact, what Harper is proposing is substantially different from American “three strike” laws, which impose automatic sentences after a third conviction.

Reverse onus provisions are already used in Canada when people seek bail for crimes such as terrorism, belonging to a criminal organization and drug trafficking.

And Harper isn’t proposing that people accused of crime should be presumed guilty, which would be unconstitutional.

He’s saying that after their third conviction for a major offence, they should have to demonstrate why they should not be designated a dangerous offender and sentenced accordingly.

Sounds fair to us and, we suspect, to most Canadians.