Pubdate: Mon, 18 Apr 2016
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2016 The Toronto Star
Page: A12
Referenced: Supreme Court Judgment: R. v. Lloyd:


Supreme Court Tears Down Another Harper-Era Crime Law

Bit by bit, the Harper government's punitive and discriminatory 
"tough on crime" agenda is being dismantled. And not a moment too soon.

The Supreme Court of Canada tore another brick out of the wall on 
Friday when it struck down two Harper-era laws. One was a mandatory 
minimum sentence of one year in prison for repeat drug offenders. The 
other prevented a person with a previous conviction from getting 
extra credit for time served in custody before trial.

Taken together, the laws tended to reduce the discretion available to 
judges to tailor sentences to the specific circumstances of a crime 
and a criminal. They forced them to punish professional criminals and 
hapless addicts in the same way. They served the former government's 
political purposes, but did not serve either justice or public safety.

Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, who wrote the mandatory-minimum 
decision on behalf of a 6-3 court majority, argued that the law 
covers a wide range of conduct - from a career drug dealer out to 
profit from moving large quantities of dope to an addict convicted of 
sharing a small amount with a friend.

As a result, she wrote, the law "catches not only the serious drug 
trafficking that is its proper aim, but conduct that is much less 
blameworthy." If Parliament wants to maintain mandatory minimums to 
crack down on big dealers, "it should consider narrowing their reach 
so that they only catch offenders that merit mandatory minimum 
sentences." Good advice.

In the second case, the court overturned a law that denied extra 
credit for time served before trial to a man who had been denied bail 
because of a previous conviction. Instead of getting 1.5 days credit 
for each day served (which is standard practice), he got only one 
day, effectively lengthening his sentence. The court ruled that is 

The Supreme Court has been chipping away at the Conservative justice 
agenda for a long time. Last spring, before the government was 
defeated, it declared mandatory minimum sentences for gun crimes to 
be unconstitutional. Like the drug sentence, it found they can crush 
lesser offenders and serious ones alike. Just as important, they rob 
judges of the discretion they need to craft sentences for each individual case.

The Harper government persisted in pushing "tough on crime" even as 
actual crime plummeted to record low levels. The top court is sending 
a welcome message to both the public and the Liberal government that 
such an approach is both unjust and inefficient.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom