Article by: By LORRIE GOLDSTEIN
There’s no chatter as deafening as that of Canada’s chattering classes when it comes to fighting efforts to toughen our justice system.
Not surprisingly, judges, lawyers, opposition politicians, criminologists, civil libertarians and the liberal punditariat are up in arms over the Harper government’s latest attempt to pass slightly tougher mandatory minimum sentences for some crimes.
In reality, the Conservatives are taking baby steps in a minority Parliament where they are hemmed in on three sides by a majority of soft-on-crime political parties and MPs. If the Conservatives ever win a majority, here are the bigger issues to address.
Never mind bringing back capital punishment, Canada doesn’t even have a real sentence of “life” for planned and premeditated murder. It’s “life with no chance of parole for 25 years,” further weakened by the “faint-hope clause,” entitling the worst murderers to their first crack at attempting to win parole after serving only 15 years.
True, there are a handful of particularly notorious murderers who will never get parole (we hope!). But even they get to play the system for a fool, as has child killer Clifford Olson.
Leaving aside murder, penalties for other violent offences have been gutted by easy parole, generous credit for time spent in custody awaiting trial and years of lax sentences by judges that now form the template for future ones.
Violent offenders can apply for unescorted day passes after serving just one-sixth of their sentence, full parole after one-third. After serving two-thirds, release is virtually guaranteed.
Meanwhile, judges routinely award those considered too dangerous to release on bail prior to trial up to triple credit upon conviction for time spent in custody awaiting trial.
Judges say they’re protesting unacceptable trial delays, begging the question why the problem never gets fixed.
Tragically, none of these issues will be addressed in the present minority Parliament where the “hug a thug” crowd rules the roost. And if they win the next election, we can kiss any real reforms goodbye.