Tuesday, March 31, 2009

BCIT Broadcast Journalism Blog

Check out the blog run by BCIT's Broadcast Journalism students... including stories and audio posted by student reporters for Evolution 107.9, BCIT's radio station.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Gang Crime

What's been happening in Greater Vancouver for the past couple of months has been coming for a long time. When I first arrived here more than 20 years ago, I could not believe the leniency of the Justice system in B.C.

First of all the fact that police do not lay charges against people accused of crimes in this province to some extent weakens the system. It creates a sense among prosecutors that they will only go into court with "winnable" cases, and so they tend to shy away from prosecutions that might prove challenging, preferring to plea-bargain many times instead. And because the prisons and jails here are so overcrowded (because there aren't enough of them) another tendency has developed-- to avoid sentencing people to incarceration. When Gordon Campbell famously closed a number of Provincial Court facilities and cut back on prosecutors there was a further erosion of the system.

When gang members are sentenced to 18 months or less for firing off guns in crowded night clubs or when they can get two-for-one "credit" for time served while awaiting trial, it seems to me the balance has shifted too far in their favour.

I recall a conversation I had with Wally Oppal when he was the Chief Justice of the BC Court of Appeal, before he became B.C.'s Attorney-General. He pooh-poohed any notion that judges might be too light in sentencing, putting the blame largely on Parliament for encouraging them to avoid sending people to prison. He didn't seem to have much tolerance for people calling for tougher sentences.

Now that he is a public servant he is of course wearing a different hat, but it's been too late to avoid what's been coming. The fact is the gangsters shooting up our streets have no fear of anyone in legitimate authority. And it may be some time before they do again.