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Experts tough on gun crime

Article by: By CP
– OTTAWA — Experts from the frontlines of the fight against organized crime gave their support yesterday to the controversial Conservative bill to toughen sentences for people who commit crimes with guns.
At the insistence of the Bloc Quebecois, the justice committee convened experts to get a progress report on how well anti-gang laws have helped fight mobsters and how they can be successfully applied against street gangs.
MPs heard that the current laws, adopted near the end of the 1990s, are successful and that proposed legislation on minimum sentences could help police and prosecutors.
“It is difficult to see this legislation as extreme,” said Randall Richmond, a Quebec prosecutor who specializes in organized crime cases. “I believe it is a way of attacking a growing problem, i.e. the use of firearms.”
Guy Ouellette, a retired Quebec provincial police biker gang expert, said the minimum sentencing law poses similar hurdles as the anti-gang legislation. “We will have the same problem, to prove that these people are involved in a criminal organization,” he said.
The comments were in contrast to past criticism of the bill. Several international studies have said that minimum sentencing has little effect on the crime rate or the risk of repeat offenders.
Bloc MP Real Menard has said more efforts must be made on investigative techniques because that is what brings the cases to court.
The bill under consideration seeks to impose more severe minimum sentences for gun crimes or those connected to a criminal gang. Sentences would range from five years for a first offence, seven years for a second and 10 for a third. At the present time, minimum sentences stand at four years.
The experts testifying yesterday said the justice system needs to be better organized and better funded.