Give police ability to directly lay charges, ‘fed up’ Abbotsford mayor says

Law professor calls idea ‘nonsensical’ and says such justice systems are overcrowded and inefficient

Abbotsford’s mayor says police, not Crown counsel, should be the ones to decide whether criminal charges are laid in court.

But a prominent law professor says the idea that such a change would reduce crime “is nonsensical.”

With the city having seen increasing property crime rates in recent years, Mayor Henry Braun says he is “fed up” and that legislative changes are needed to change how the courts operate.

“There have to be some changes to our criminal justice system,” he told The News recently. “Our police can’t fix this if there’s a revolving door with the courts.”

RELATED: Abbotsford crime not trending in right direction: police chief

RELATED: Abbotsford Police promote ‘9 p.m. Routine’ to deter property crime

Braun said he had recently heard of an arrest made by local police in which an offender with dozens of convictions on his record had been caught stealing.

“They have more evidence than Crown counsel would ever need to bring a conviction, but what happened when it came time to lay a charge?”

Braun continued: “Crown counsel makes that call. But they decided they had higher profile cases to work on and they weren’t going to weigh a charge. So what happens? This person gets released. Well, he’s out on the street doing the same thing he was doing yesterday.”

Braun said the current system simply isn’t working when it comes to stopping chronic property-crime offenders.

“We have to find a way to get them off our streets, and our court system is failing this.”

Braun says he has spoken to B.C. solicitor general Mike Farnworth about the issue, and says giving police the final say in whether charges are laid would help.

Currently, police collect evidence in a case and can recommend charges, but the final decision lies with Crown counsel. Lawyers there use a two-step formula that first considers whether there is a likelihood of conviction, and then factor in whether prosecution is in the public interest. An online summation of the process notes that there are “many factors in deciding this, including how serious the allegations are.”

An independent review of the charge assessment process in 2012 found that Crown counsel should continue to have the final say.

Benjamin Perrin, a professor at UBC’s Peter A. Allard School of Law and the co-author of an annual report card on provincial justice systems, suggested that taking charge-laying authority away from Crown would be a move in the wrong direction.

“Jurisdictions, like Ontario, where the police can directly lay charges typically see a much higher proportion of criminal charges subsequently stayed or withdrawn,” he said in an email to The News. That means more delays and inefficiencies in the criminal justice system. The idea that crime will be combatted by giving the police the ability to lay charges – without approval by a Crown prosecutor – is nonsensical, Perrin said.

Perrin’s report cards have shown that Ontario’s justice system is rife with delays. Forty-three per cent of criminal charges that are laid in the province are eventually stayed or withdrawn and barely half of those that do go to trial result in a conviction.

In Quebec and B.C., by contrast, far more charges that are laid actually end up in convictions.


@ty_olsen
tolsen@abbynews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Search continues for person seen floating in Coquihalla River in Hope

Rescuers halted the search Thursday night as darkness fell

Rescuers halt Coquihalla River search due to darkness, after reports of person in river

No information to indicate a child is involved, RCMP state, after this information surfaced on social media

Arrest at Abbotsford shopping centre

Man detained Thursday afternoon

Two Chilliwack women make weekly Crime Stoppers most wanted list

Ashley Felix and Raina McDonald wanted on unrelated issues

United Way grant provides food to 100 former prisoners, families

Abbotsford-based M2/W2 Association receives $25,000 to supply groceries

13 new B.C. COVID-19 cases, Langley Lodge outbreak ends

Health care outbreaks down to four, 162 cases active

Greater Vancouver home sales start to tick up, with prices holding steady

Residential sales last month reached 2,443, a 64.5 per cent jump from May

Langley Lodge’s deadly outbreak declared over

Fraser Health and long-term care home administrator confirm Friday declaration

PHOTOS: South Surrey tractor project evokes ‘$1-million smile,’ helps connect neighbours

Retired Surrey firefighter Ron Henze began project for friend’s dad to fill time during pandemic

Alberta health minister orders review into response after noose found in hospital in 2016

A piece of rope tied into a noose was found taped to the door of an operating room at the Grande Prairie Hospital in 2016

B.C.’s major rivers surge, sparking flood warnings

A persistent low pressure system over Alberta has led to several days of heavy rain

B.C.’s Indigenous rights law faces 2020 implementation deadline

Pipeline projects carry on as B.C. works on UN goals

‘Mind boggling’: B.C. man $1 million richer after winning Lotto 6/49 a second time

David O’Brien hopes to use his winnings to travel and of course keep playing the lottery

White-throated sparrows have changed their tune, B.C. study unveils

Study marks an unprecedented development scientists say has caused them to sit up and take note

Most Read