Tuesday, April 10, 2007
From lawtimes.com: Queen’s University Faculty of Law CrimProf Don Stuart recently wrote an opinon piece discussing the fact that criminal justice is better under the Charter. Here is a sample of the piece:
"The entrenchment of Charter rights for accused in 1982 with effective remedies for breach has indeed had a revolutionary effect on the criminal justice system.
Our criminal justice system is no longer just about whether guilt has been proved. Courts also insist on maintaining fundamental Charter standards of fairness respecting policing, prosecution, trials, sentencing, and release from custody.
The judicial assertion of entrenched Charter standards since 1982 has constituted the only real check against the lure of law-and-order politics by politicians of all stripes and the consequent unremittingly legislative trend to toughen the criminal law. There are no votes in being soft on crime. Politicians fall over each other to be tough even though criminologists have made it very clear that toughening penalties in the United States and elsewhere has had no effect on reducing crime.
The Charter of Rights and Freedoms has helped ensure that we have a balanced criminal justice system of which Canadians can be proud. The Charter protects minority rights against the tyranny of the majority. This includes rights of those accused of crimes, which tend to be unpopular until the moment we ourselves get charged.
Especially through the work of the Supreme Court of Canada, important and minimum standards have been put in place. Accused cannot be punished without a finding of fault. This is even so for most provincial offences. An accused can no longer be sent to jail for life under constructive murder provisions under which a killing during the commission of certain listed crimes was automatically murder even though the killing was accidental or even by someone other than the accused. There is no evidence that this has affected the murder." More. . . [Mark Godsey]