Monday, October 15, 2007

Canada's flawed justice

Today, an Ontario man was found innocent of a terrible crime - after he spent 12 years in jail for the crime of raping and killing his 4-year-old niece, a crime that never happened. The police decided on the day the girl died that he was guilty and a medical examiner, who apparently was very inept and whose cases are all now suspect, backed them up. You may say that the system worked and that he was eventually found not guilty but will that give him back the 12 years plus that he spent in a federal prison and will that give him back the respect of his family and his neighbours? Will it replace the years in which he might have made something of himself, might have married and had children? No amount of money will atone for the wrong done to him by our justice system.

Unfortunately, he is only one of a long list of people who have been found innocent after spending long periods in jail after being wrongly convicted. Most of these have happened because of police who decide who they think is guilty and make the evidence fit. Thank goodness for the students who work on these cold cases and for the few decent lawyers who help by appealing the cases. I can't believe I just said decent and lawyers in the same sentence!

Unfortunately, I have seen this sort of thing first hand. I have stood in the hall of a courthouse and listened to police officers decide exactly what lies they would be prepared to tell to the court. I have had a relative accused falsely of crimes not committed and then had the Crown offer to drop some of the charges if my relative would plead guilty to some, knowing full well that defending all the charges would bankrupt our family. There was a time when I would have said "If there's smoke there must be fire" but now I know that the system itself is on fire and that unless you have lots and lots of money, you are powerless against it if they want you to be guilty.

The police have too much power, the Crown has too much power and there is virtually no way to defend yourself against them. The politicians, who are intended to work for us, are totally uninterested in the fact that the system is flawed and the newspapers, who claim to do investigative reporting do not care. Too bad.

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Police stupidity