Pubdate: Fri, 08 Dec 2006
Source: Medicine Hat News (CN AB)
Copyright: 2006 Alberta Newspaper Group, Inc.
Author: Ed Ryan
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: (Mandatory Minimum Sentencing)


The last major revision of the Canadian Criminal Code was back in 1954.

Since then, it has become appallingly out of date and in dire need of 
a major overhaul.

Many of the laws are redundant, outdated, bewildering and even silly 
with little thought for how they fit together.

Homosexuality is no longer a criminal offence provided that it occurs 
between two consenting adults. Otherwise, it's a criminal offence 
that carries a maximum 10-year sentence.

Did you know that it is a criminal offence to sell literature that 
promotes drug use. This, I'm sure, comes as startling news to 
thousands of librarians.

It's also considered a crime to possess or sell a comic book 
consisting mainly of pictures of crimes whether fictitious or real.

It's criminal to claim a drug can restore sexual virility like Viagra does.

The Criminal Code prohibits the theft of more than 35 kinds of 
property such as lumber, cows and oysters. Theft of this kind of 
property is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Maximum prison sentences are totally out of touch with public 
expectations. Robbery, for example, carries a life sentence. It's a 
sentence that judges almost never impose.

Possession of marijuana carries a maximum seven-year sentence. If 
this law was rigidly enforced, half the country's population would 
have criminal records.

Canada has only a handful of offences that carry a mandatory minimum 
sentence that force judges to impose a minimum penalty no matter the 
circumstances of the crime, such as the unjust and merciless 10-year 
sentence imposed on Saskatchewan farmer Robert Latimer who took the 
fragile life of his long-suffering daughter.

Criminal law continues to be written in a vernacular understandable 
only to those who work in the legal profession. For example, what is 
meant by "intent"? Is a person guilty of a crime if he/she didn't 
intend to commit the crime? And what is meant by "criminal negligence"?

What about the phrase "beyond reasonable doubt"? Even judges can't 
seem to agree on the meaning of this legal lollipop.

It's not the Supreme Court that is at fault for this mess. It's the 
federal government that has been running awry.

Also at fault are the many criminal lawyers who are in no hurry to 
see changes made. They understand the arcane system and are 
comfortable with it. It's in their interest to maintain a 
complicated, esoteric justice system that only they seem to comprehend.

Ed Ryan

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