Thursday, August 14, 2014

Hot Air And Bad Law


Steve Sullivan writes that Stephen Harper's obsession with PR makes for bad laws. Consider the recently passed "Increasing Offenders Accountability For Victims Act:"

The latter bill, which came into effect in October 2013, requires judges to impose $100 or $200 surcharges on convicted offenders. Prior to the law, judges had the discretion to waive the surcharge for offenders who could not pay. Across the country, provincial governments rely on surcharges to fund services for victims of crime, such as sexual assault centres.

Recently, Ontario Court Justice David Paciocco convicted Shaun Michael of nine offences, including theft, assault and breaching probation. Michael is a drug-addicted alcoholic Inuit man; he had to steal food before he was 10 and started abusing alcohol when he was 13. He lives on $250 a month.

Paciocco could have imposed $900 in victim surcharges but he noted that each of the surcharges represents 40 per cent of Michael’s monthly living allowance. Paciocco found the mandatory surcharge law to be “cruel and unusual” punishment and ruled it unconstitutional. He will no longer impose the surcharge in any cases, even when an offender can pay. Although the ruling is not binding, other judges are following suit; an offender who volunteered to pay the surcharge was told he did not have to.

By removing judicial discretion in the application of the law, Mr. Harper is crippling services for the very people he says he is working for. As is the case with so many other files, the prime minister's take on criminal justice makes things worse.

Hot air makes for bad law.

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