TV stunts won’t solve court problems

Premier Christy Clark handed her opponents more ammunition last week with her latest “ready, fire, aim” episode, calling for radio and TV coverage of Stanley Cup riot prosecutions.

VICTORIA – Premier Christy Clark handed her opponents more ammunition last week with her latest “ready, fire, aim” episode, calling for radio and TV coverage of Stanley Cup riot prosecutions.

The day after this half-baked idea was announced, Public Safety Minister Shirley Bond had to sign an executive order directing Crown prosecutors to ask judges for broadcast coverage. Prosecutors have enough trouble getting convictions in our stumbling, delay-plagued court system without spending time on TV applications for minor cases.

Bond referred reporters to the long list of conditions under which broadcasting may be done from court. In the unlikely event a judge consents to broadcast access, nothing can be aired until at least two hours after a morning or afternoon session has been adjourned. Absurdly, everyone involved, from lawyers to witnesses to defendants, has a veto over their image or voice being broadcast. No accused people would consent to that. The rules are designed to fail.

I’m all in favour of televising court, not so much to shame perpetrators as to show what a cozy little closed shop it is. I recently sat in on the plea-bargained sentence for James Roy Taylor, the former Fraser Health technology manager caught with his hand in the cookie jar for the second time in his career.

Crown and defence lawyers exchanged legalese barely above a whisper, congratulating each other for the elegance of the tap on the wrist they were giving Taylor for accepting multiple benefits in exchange for approving fraudulent invoices for a doctor supplying questionable electronic health services. Taylor has to do community service, pay back the lolly he admits accepting, and take a reduced pension on account of being fired as a crook. Poor fellow.

Anyone who has sat in court for long sees the endless parade of adjournments and excuses that routinely substitute for progress. Years ago I publicized the efforts a pioneering group of youth court observers, ordinary citizens horrified by the sluggish pace of proceedings. Day after day they saw smirking teens watch lawyers compare schedules before heading off to lunch. Those citizens’ efforts led to a diversion program for first-time offenders to provide timely consequences for first-time offenders.

Don’t take it from me on the state of our courts. Gov. Gen. David Johnston, a law professor before being appointed the Queen’s representative in Canada, gave a speech in August in which he ripped lawyers for violating their social contract with the public with unacceptable delays.

“We enjoy a monopoly to practise law,” Johnston told the Canadian Bar Association meeting. “In return, we are duty-bound to serve our clients competently, to improve justice and to continuously create the good. That’s the deal.”

As usual, the political debate is nearly sterile. The NDP wants more judges, prosecutors, sheriffs and courthouses. Pour more money in, just like the school and health systems, says the party that hasn’t had a new idea in 30 years.

Bond did propose a new idea last week. Probation orders with conditions will soon be available for those charged with public drunkenness under the Liquor Control and Licensing Act rather than the Criminal Code.  But they would still have to go to court.

Perhaps the government could take a cue from their recent revision of impaired driving laws, giving police the ability to assess fines and impound vehicles on the spot. Perhaps by the time the next big drunken riot starts to brew, cops would actually be able to offer consequences.

Going around the court system is their best bet these days.

Tom Fletcher is legislative reporter and columnist for Black Press and BCLocalnews.com

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

Just Posted

Lost dog reunited with family three months after going missing along Juan de Fuca trail

‘The poor thing was skin and bones,’ says one of the Sooke rescuers

Victoria family donates 878 falafel wraps to support Beirut blast victims

Wrap and Roll pulls in $20,500 during weekend fundraiser

Reimagined campaign continues to make Vancouver Island wishes come true

#UnWinedOutside allows participants to support Make-A-Wish Foundation, local businesses

Police investigating string of break-ins at closed Saanich care home

Electronics, tools reported stolen from Mount Tolmie Hospital

Battle of Fairy Creek: blockade launched to save Vancouver Island old-growth

‘Forest Defenders’ occupy road to prevent logging company from reaching Port Renfrew-area watershed

B.C. records 30-50 new COVID-19 cases a day over weekend, no new deaths

Many of those testing positive were identified by contact tracing for being linked to other confirmed infections

Five B.C. First Nations call out Canada for ‘discriminatory’ food fish practices

West Coast nations say government ignoring court-won right to chinook and coho

Rent-relief program becomes new front in fight between Liberals, opposition

Opposition trying to draw parallels between decision to have Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. run program and the WE controversy

Nanaimo woman will buy ‘supersonic’ hair dryer after $500,000 lotto win

Debra Allen won $500,000 in July 28 Lotto Max draw

Ottawa sets minimum unemployment rate at 13.1% for EI calculation

Statistics Canada says the unemployment rate was 10.9 per cent in July

Cougar euthanized after attacking little dog in Qualicum area

Owner freed pet by whacking big cat, but dog didn’t survive the attack

$45K in donations received after couple’s sudden death in Tulameen

Sarah MacDermid, 31, and Casey Bussiere, 37, died August long weekend

Famous Yukon-based bhangra dancer brings movements of joy to Long Beach

Internet-famous dancer is exploring Vancouver Island, visiting the B.C. Legislature and more

Most Read