New rules…

Dec 27, 2019

The Lawyer’s Daily – Christopher Guly
Dismissal of all charges in Boyle criminal trial included numerous ‘first-time-in-Canada rulings’

The strange story of Joshua Boyle and Caitlan Coleman, former hostages held for five years in Afghanistan by the Taliban from 2012 – 2017, took several twists before Ontario Court Justice Peter Doody.  The justice, in a sexual assault case involving the Ghomeshi rules, ruled that neither Boyle nor his ex-wife Coleman were credible and then the justice dismissed all 19 changes against Boyle.  Defence lawyer Lawrence Greenspon and Ottawa Criminal defence lawyer Michael Spratt both offer commentary on the verdict and the applications of the new rules.   (Link includes other references.)

Toronto Star – Marco Chown Oved and Andrew Bailey
In Canada, nearly all accused money launderers get their charges dropped

Would you believe 86% of the charges laid against those who assist in laundering crime money are withdrawn?  Whoever said that crime does not pay?  As a yardstick, 64% of all criminal charges in Canada during the same period resulted in convictions.  “There are men and women in law enforcement who are very dedicated in trying to catch these guys and put them in jail. But the Crown (attorneys) just end up using (the money laundering charge) as a bargaining chip and withdrawing it,” said Chris Mathers, a former RCMP officer who specialized in undercover money laundering investigations. “A conviction rate like that is pretty abysmal.”   Related article: MacDonald – Laurier Institute – Christian Leuprecht   How Canada can start to fix its money laundering problem

National Public Radio (US) – Mhari Shaw
The Poetry of Prison: A Photographer Looks at the Lives of Oklahoma’s Incarcerated

This link offers a seasonal reflection on aspects of imprisonment that remind us most forcefully of the destructiveness of prison on its inmates and the families of the inmates.  Displayed as a series of pictures with accompanying poetry, it reminds us of the humanity often the first victim of prison.

Toronto Star – Madelaine Ritts
 How many more homeless need to die before we act?

At the time of the writing, nearly 1,000 people have died homeless, approximately two a week.  The median age is 49; some estimate over 9,000 people are homeless in Toronto.  Ritts wants the mayor of Toronto to call the homelessness ‘a state of emergency’ so as to trigger more effective response and an intentional decision to make the invisible visible.   Related article: Calgary Star – Madeline Smith  Medicine Hat said it eliminated homelessness in 2015. Here’s how the city is working to keep it that way   Related article: CBC News – Nick Purdon & Leonardo Palleja  ‘We’re everywhere now’: Meet the homeless in Canada’s largest city – ‘It’s people who have fallen on hard times, got divorced, lost their jobs, got a work injury’

Transforming Justice (UK)
How to mend our criminal justice system – a twelve point plan

The commentary offered is predicated on the new Conservative government’s recurring theme of getting hard on crime, basically understood as longer sentences and tougher parole.  Starting with the fact of reduced crime, the article follows with critical change points needed.  The path  follows the money spent and corrects the problems but also calls for players to recognize the limitations of policing by itself.  Both long sentences and short sentences are considered  ineffective.   Related article: The Guardian Editorial – Dec. 16, 2019  The Guardian view on sentencing: longer prison terms are a kneejerk response – Two high-profile cases of former prisoners reoffending have revealed serious flaws. Boris Johnson should look for answers, not cheap shots

Washington Post Editorial – December 25, 2019
A bill to reduce sentences for violent D.C. felons goes too far

The editorial critiques the effort by the DC municipal council to reduce mass incarceration by examining the process of determining early release on inmates on the basis of the age when the crimes were committed.  First, the age was under 18, now the age is under 25.  Additionally, the law anticipated would allow felons to apply for release after serving 15 years.  The editorial views the possibility of many violent criminals release from long sentences as alarming, not as confronting mass incarceration and as offensive to victims.

Associated Press (US) – Elliot Spagat
US awards immigration detention contracts in California

Prison reform advocates view with some alarm this most recent decision by the Trump federal government to invest heavily in contracts with private prison companies to run immigration detention jails.  What is more reprehensible is that the federal decision comes two weeks before the implementation of a California state law that prohibits such prisons.  “A federal website posted long-term awards on Friday worth a combined $6.8 billion for detention facilities in San Diego, Calexico, Adelanto and Bakersfield. The sites will house about 4,000 detainees, with capacity to expand in the future.”

Toronto Star Editorial – December 24, 2019
The Christmas message for the ages

We live in an era in which we want to be careful about intruding on the faith beliefs of non-Christians but this Christmas editorial offers a message resonant with all efforts to confront our personal and collective failures, even those under sentence of the criminal justice system.  “The Christmas story is full of inherent drama that speaks to something in the human spirit in its account of guidance in the stars, renewal through the meekest, faith and hope in the most challenging of circumstances…Down through history, Christmas has been celebrated by the faithful and has offered comfort as well to other creeds and the creedless through the universality of most aspects of its narrative…In its story is an acknowledgement of our mortal failings and predicament. Why else a redeemer?  In it is the necessity and possibility of a fresh start.”