HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Court Watchers Find 97% Of Drug-related Charges Result In Very Little Punishment
Pubdate: Thu, 12 Feb 2004
Source: Abbotsford News (CN BC)
Copyright: 2004 Hacker Press Ltd.
Author: Cheryl Wierda


Abbotsford's court watchers program is calling for changes to the
criminal justice system after finding 97 per cent of drug-related
charges receive little punishment in the courts.

"There's absolutely no deterrence," said Gertie Pool of Court

Between Dec. 1, 2003 and Jan. 30, 2004, six drug cases were dismissed
and 23 cases resulted in a stay of proceedings.

There were 14 cases were the accused was found guilty or pleaded
guilty to other charges. Those cases resulted in 10 sets of charges
being stayed.

Of the cases were someone was found guilty, four resulted in probation
and seven people got a conditional sentence.

One person was handed a $1,360 fine, another spent one day in jail,
and one accused spent two weeks in cells.

"What is there to stop them from doing it all over again?" asked Pool.
"The problem can be fixed but something has to be done drastically."
Pool would like to see laws toughened up to deal with offenders.

"Think about the horrendous social costs of these drug peddlers," she

"Common sense tells me that if all these offenders were made to pay a
hefty fine that it would go a long way to deter further criminal
activities," she said, noting the funds could also be used to pay
their court costs.

Fines collected in Abbotsford in the two-month period studied totalled

Court Watchers would also like to see a grid structure used that would
stipulate a systematic sentence for certain crimes. For instance,
heavy fines would be handed out for a first offence, six months jail
for a second offence and a two year sentence for a third offence.

They'd like to see pot growers get a one year jail term for a first

As well, judges should be reviewed with public input every three

Court Watchers are also suggesting that if lawyers or offenders don't
show up in court, it result in an automatic guilty plea. According to
the group, of 296 cases called recently in court, the accused was
absent 42 per cent of the time, and 11 per cent of the time lawyers
were missing or not ready to proceed.

The group plans to bring their suggestions to Attorney General Geoff
Plant later this year.
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