Little Fish in a Giant pond

Friday, October 13, 2006

Three strikes legislation in Canada?

Well I suppose we had to expect this. Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Justice Minister Vic Toews have just announced that they will be introducing a Canadian form of “three strikes you're out” legislation. For details please see the link below:

Apparently, the bill, which is supposed to be introduced to parliament next week, would reverse the burden of proof onto a defendant that has been convicted of three or more violent or sexual offences, for proving that he or she is not a dangerous offender. The consequence of such a label is that dangerous offenders have longer minimum sentences.

Naturally, this decision has drawn the wrath of criminal lawyers (in particular defense attorneys I would imagine!), and the praise of victim's advocates.

I can understand how this would please victim's groups. Their chief preoccupation is with retributive justice, and who's to say that they are not entitled to such justice so long as it is executed within reason? On the other hand, unless we are imprisoning someone for life (and even a life sentence doesn't usually mean life), it just makes sense to rehabilitate them so that they are less likely to re-offend when they are returned to society. By removing the possibility of early release, we are in effect removing an important incentive for them to engage in the rehabilitation process.

As the attached article suggests (along with many criminologists) three strikes legislation has been tried in other jurisdictions, in particular American ones, that are currently moving away from such tactics because they have been determined to be ineffective in deterring crime. I sense that if there can be any purpose in three strikes legislation, it is that it will provide some measure of justice to the victims of crime. At least people will be punished more severely for serious repeat offences. But at what cost to society as a whole?


  • this is a bad idea...i can't even to begin on saying why, other that it would go against everything we Canadians believe in, innocent until proven's a basic rights that has just been flushed down the drain.

    By Blogger Vicky, at 3:06 PM  

  • I hate to contradict you Vicky, especially in defence of the Tories, but under the proposed legislation, the burden of proof will still be upon the crown to establish guilt. It's just that after three CONVICTIONS of a violent or sexual nature, the offender will have to prove that he or she does not deserve to be classified as a dangerous offender.

    By Blogger Fish, at 11:25 PM  

  • Whoa, understood, hardly any of that, haha, big words. This is why I'm in paramedics and not Law. But I think people who've been convicted of these crimes 3 times should be punished more severely. Come on, they obviously aren't rehabilitating very well and just get out to hurt more people. Get them out of the communities!

    By Anonymous Blythe-Best little sister EVER, at 12:32 PM  

  • I'd have to agree with Vicky, depending on the crime and its severity, it should be made harder for those criminals to come into contact with society since they clearly have not been rehabilitated. This being said, the actual rehabilitation process is far from being adequate for many of these criminals to have any lasting effect. I do not like the idea of "3 strikes", but i do agree with the idea of restricting the contact those repeated offenders have with the outside society since they have a major risk of going back to "bad" habits. Some are mentally ill and do not receive adequate treatment, others have other reasons, but if they insist on commiting violent and sexual crimes over and over again, they clearly have no self control.

    As for reversing the proof burden to the offender on the question or wether or not they are in fact dangerous offenders, it seems unfair because a lot of these people cannot defend themselves adequatly nor have the money to afford big time lawyers. The question is more, what could be reasonably be done to come to keep the most dangerous away from society ? The dangerous offender label would have to be established not within reasonable doubt, but to without a doubt.


    P.S. I hope my post makes sens lol

    By Anonymous Mel, at 10:01 AM  

  • I haven't yet looked into everything this proposed bill would involve - at first, I too thought this bill would reverse the fundamental premise upon which rests our justice system, that one is innocent until proven guilty, on the third offence.

    It now seems to come across that the bill would not change the rules regarding placement of the burden of the proof, but rather, that the offender, once convicted, would have the burden of justifying why he or she should not be listed as a Dangerous Offender - and it is to be understood that this requirement would only be imposed upon the third dangerous criminal offence.

    Doesn't seem so bad in that light, in consideration that offenders who would reach that threshold to begin with constitute very likely a small percentage of all offenders, and that the percentage in question is indeed the clientele targetted by the Dangerous Offender status provisions in the first place. Equally, I'm reassured that the placement of the burden of proof of criminality will remain upon the Crown. In that light, while I find the legislation may have some merit, I'm not sure how it will impact our criminal justice system in the cost/benefit equation. Fundamentally, I would rather see a proper foster care system in place, a proper daycare system in place, adequate support meaures for families most in need... essentially, the measures that would largely eliminate the dangerous offender problem in the first place.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:10 PM  

  • Blythe, it doesn't matter what program you study in, you are always welcome to comment on my blog! Thanks sis!

    Mel, no worries, your post makes sense. The only thing I would disagree with is that because criminal offences are covered by legal aid, anyone fighting against the violent offender label would at least have an adequate defense.

    Bronson, I also haven't fully looked into this legislation, so I guess that both of our opinions are somewhat less informed than we should be (even though we are both in possession of very fine legal minds ;-) lol). One thing you wrote that I found to be a little weak was "Doesn't seem so bad in that light, in consideration that offenders who would reach that threshold to begin with constitute very likely a small percentage of all offenders, and that the percentage in question is indeed the clientele targeted by the Dangerous Offender status provisions in the first place."

    Quite frankly, I don't think repeat offenders are all that rare. Don't forget that anybody who has ever gotten into a bar fight can be charged with criminal assault. I don't think it's such a great leap to say that there will be a fair amount of people out there with multiple convictions of such a nature.

    By Blogger Fish, at 12:29 PM  

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