Crawl Across the Ocean

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Better Part of Valour

Kevin has a good post on the Conservatives proposed legislation with respect to the Criminal Code.

I think that we always need to be cautious any time we want to reduce the element of human discretion in a complicated situation (by getting rid of conditional sentences, or increasing the number or length of maximum sentences, for example).

I compare it to the NHL where most decisions are left to the discretion of the referee. Some attempts to remove discretion have been successful (automatic penalty for high sticking) but many have proven failures (no tolerance for players in the crease) or will likely be dismissed as failures in the near term (automatic penalty for defense putting the puck over the glass).

Given the variety of circumstances which can all lead to the same verdict, one size fits all punishments can easily lead to decisions which are less equitable, not more.

Speaking more generally, in discussions on crime that I read, a lot of people seem to come from a perspective which assumes that everyone who is ever convicted must be guilty. I could be wrong, but DNA evidence certainly seems to be telling us that innocent people get convicted fairly regularly, and I think that if more people were to imagine themselves wrongfully convicted of a crime it might change their attitude somewhat.

What's most sad is when people take a complex topic and try to reduce it to a macho sound-bite, with everyone competing to be seen as 'tough on crime' and nobody wanting to be 'soft on crime', as if the state determining the course of people's lives was such a simple matter.


  • I think that we need to go to a system where repeate offenders get punished more. If it is your 3rd or 4th crime up the punishment then due to the fact that rehablitation hasn't worked and they seem to not be learning to be law abiding citizens at that point.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:24 PM  

  • Well I agree that it is a sign we're doing something wrong, when people show up as multiple repeat offenders. But judges probably know that as well as anyone. One alternative would be to raise the optional maximum sentence rather than raising the mandatory minimum.

    By Blogger Declan, at 4:45 PM  

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