Opinion Column

Current sentencing laws provide police and prosecutors with tools they need

David Eby

By David Eby, The Duel

Here’s the two big problems with a mandatory minimum sentence for kidnapping.

First, it takes a tool away from police to talk down a kidnapper and encourage them to return a child safely. As a parent, your first priority isn’t the sentencing of the person who took away your child, it’s the safe return of your child. If police can create hope in a kidnapper of a lesser sentence and that tips the balance for that person to return your child safely, you’d support that.

Second, it takes a tool away from prosecutors who would strike a deal with one kidnapper to turn in their co-conspirators. Of course, to you and me, five years sounds hardly adequate for a person charged with kidnapping a child. But the Crown could never have obtained the essential evidence against horrific serial killer Paul Bernardo without negotiating a deal with the devil with his partner in crime, Karla Homolka, if mandatory minimums were in place for all of their horrible crimes that Homolka admitted.

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Why would she have turned over Bernardo if mandatory minimums were in place? It would have been a life sentence either way. May as well plead not guilty and hope the police don’t find enough evidence for a court to convict.

Bill C-299 is a solution in search of a problem. For the Graham McMynn kidnapping in Vancouver in 2006, the conspirators were sentenced from eight to 13 years in prison— not five.

Courts do understand how serious these crimes are. Everyone does. Justice LeSage, in Ontario, sitting on a kidnapping case said: “Kidnapping by a stranger in Canada is, thank God, not a common crime but it is shockingly evil, that when it occurs a denunciatory or an exemplary sentence must be imposed.”

Simplistic themes that falsely suggest our courts are letting kidnappers walk free, and that mandatory minimum sentences are required, do a disservice to our prosecutors, our police, our courts and the public as a whole.

The justice system has its challenges related to underfunding and backlogs. If kidnappers go free in B.C., it will be because there are insufficient criminal court system resources, not because a court doesn’t want to impose a serious sentence.

Kudos to those MPs who refused to be distracted from the real problems with criminal justice in Canada by refusing to endorse this short-sighted “solution” to a problem that doesn’t exist.

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