Isn’t it comforting to live in a province where our benign policy of “catch and release” protects both endangered fish and foul behaviour? Not!
I was so mad I could spit when I read that the first Stanley Cup riot case to come to court resulted in an 18-year-old Surrey student receiving an absolute discharge after he plead guilty in provincial court to possession of stolen property.
The student was charged after a teacher heard him brag about being in possession of stolen swimsuits, but the Crown felt the evidence wasn’t sufficient to conclude that he stole the property. What am I missing here? He pled guilty and he didn’t even get a slap on the wrist.
What’s really alarming is that the case is not even linked to the 60 riot files the Vancouver cops have turned over to the Crown. In fact, at time of writing the Crown had not approved a single charge in any of those cases.
Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu says his force has recommended 163 charges be laid against 60 suspected rioters. Chu says this is the result of the most extensive criminal probe ever launched by his department. More than 5,000 hours of digital imagery have been reviewed by 50 forensic analysts representing 40 law enforcement agencies from across North America and the United Kingdom.
We’re talking millions of dollars here. And, no Crown charges have been laid yet in Vancouver. Just one dead end RCMP charge has surfaced as a result of an overheard conversation at a Surrey high school.
What’s even worse, the Crown is already hedging its bets about getting these rioters and looters through the court system.
Samiran Lakshman, president of the Crown Counsel Association, says dozens of court cases have been abandoned already this year because of delays. Booking a one-day trial in Vancouver provincial court can result in a nine to 12-month wait. Lakshman says a “stack” of riot cases could result in a situation where there is “unreasonable delay.” When a case of unreasonable delay is established, charges are dismissed.
I want you to compare this mess with the response of the British justice system to the London riots this summer.
A Guardian newspaper analysis shows that sentences in Britain’s higher Crown courts for theft or handling stolen goods in connection with the London riots have averaged 13 months, 18 per cent more severe than a typical 11-month sentence handed down by the Crown courts for similar offences unrelated to rioting.
The newspaper also found that the typical sentence for theft or handling stolen goods across all Crown and lower courts was four months, but many rioters faced higher Crown court level sentences as a large number of cases are passed upwards from the lower courts for tougher punishments.
The Guardian data covers more than 70 per cent of the riot defendants and indicates that judges have been most willing to treat involvement in the riots as an aggravating factor in sentencing.
I have two observations: the Brits have managed to process their hooligans with dispatch, and their high court judges have sent a clear message that rioting will not be tolerated.
Not comforting, is it, when we compare ourselves with our British cousins? No, it’s downright pathetic, embarrassing and infuriating. M