The law is an integral part of any society.
It can also be awfully confusing, downright frustrating and, for the family and friends of John Ruffolo, absolutely infuriating.
The latter sentiment was produced last week, after B.C. Court of Appeal Madam Justice Mary Newbury allowed the appeal of Ruffolo’s convicted killer, Ruby Ann Ruffolo, and set her free on $100,000 bail.
In her decision, Justice Newbury voiced a fear that granting bail would undermine public confidence in the justice system. Yet she granted it anyway, convinced that Ruffolo posed no flight risk, having stuck around town during the six years it took for her to be tried for the crime of murdering her husband in 2003.
Disgusted with that reasoning, John Ruffolo’s sister, Mena Westhaver, said it best when she wrote the News to ask whether B.C. has a “first murder free” act.
Paul Pearson, Victoria-based chair of the criminal justice section of the Canadian Bar Association’s B.C. branch, acknowledged that granting bail in such situations is rare, but it does happen on occasion.
We tend to side with Westhaver. How does someone who has gone through the criminal justice system and been not only convicted, but given the longest jail sentence possible, warrant being released on bail?
It just doesn’t make sense, regardless of the law as it is written. The decision sends a confusing message that, as Justice Newbury feared, will without question cast public doubt upon the justice system. Regardless of Ruffolo’s record of keeping her nose clean during the trial period – her reputation was far from clean leading up to her husband’s death – it can do nothing but damage the public’s perception that it is being kept safe.
And what of the victim’s family? They fought an emotional battle for years to have his killer convicted and taken off the streets.
The B.C. court system needs to better explain its judgments if it wants to maintain any level of credibility.