Federal Crime Legislation to Strain Burdened B.C. Courts

Federal crime legislation set to be tabled in Parliament Tuesday will put further strain on B.C.’s taxed justice system, experts say.

The Stephen Harper government is expected to introduce the first part of its long-awaited criminal reform legislation on the second day of the fall session of Parliament.

During the spring election campaign, Harper promised to bundle a number of crime bills as omnibus legislation and ensure its passage within 100 sitting days of the majority Parliament.

It appears that time has come. Eric Gottardi, a Vancouver criminal lawyer, said the trickle-down effect of the proposed federal legislation will be felt most by the provinces, which are responsible for courthouses, pre-trial centres and Crown prosecutors.

“This is going to put an even greater tax on the system where judges are already crying for more courtrooms, Crowns are having their budgets slashed and there’s just not a lot of money to go around,” he said.

With B.C. facing a serious lack of sheriffs and court delays that have seen impaired-driving cases thrown out, the new provisions could be a “recipe for disaster,” Gottardi said.

The Tories plan to end house arrest of criminals for serious crime, crack down on organized drug crime and boost mandatory minimum sentences for some crimes.

Rob Gordon, director of the School of Criminology at Simon Fraser University, said the Conservatives’ wish to take away judges’ discretion in handing down sentences and a measure to scrap avenues for early release may hit B.C. the hardest.

“This is going to load more strain on the system that will ultimately drain taxpayers’ dollars in a direction that is not necessarily the most productive in the long run.”

The government maintains its proposed measures are necessary to stand up for victims.

– Article from The Province.