Crime & Punishment

Crime and justice comment and analysis

Archive for June 2005

The freedom to know

with 5 comments

It’s high time our courts got rid of the ludicrous publication bans that are preventing Canadians from know what is going on in our names.

As proven in the Gomery Commission hearings, the media has changed and information has a way of getting out regardless of what the starched shirts want to see happen. The news is no longer disseminated on broadsheet pages. It’s digital, it’s fast and it’s everywhere. Information is king and efforts to slow or stop the flow are doomed to fail.

And so what? Our courts have traditionally tried to contain information within the four walls of the courtroom on the basis of ensuring the accused gets a fair trial and the public’s mind is free of any information which might bias their way of thinking.

But, can that argument really be made with any credibility any more? Look at the Michael Jackson case for the best argument that refutes the court’s position. Jacko may be whacko, but despite all the publicity he wasn’t found guilty.

I can’t imagine how there could have been any more publicity about that case both before and after the trial started. The web site The Smoking Gun even managed to get documents posted that the mainstream media had tried and failed to obtain. Anyone on the planet could have found out all the evidence including the details of the previous settlement with the other boy long before the first jurror was picked. Yet, the system worked as it was designed to do and a jury rendered its verdict.

Can anyone say that his rights were abused by the phalanx of publicity? Hardly.

It’s long past time the antiquated and moribund justice system in Canada allowed itself to join the rest of the world in the new millenium. A good start would be in the Pickton case. The trial against the accused serial killer is soon to start and the arguments about the publication bans are taking too much time and costing everyone too much money. Most especially the taxpayer.

The media will cover the case. The Blogosphere will report on the facts and rumours. But, at the end of the day, 12 people will responsibly do their duty no matter what has been said, broadcast or reported.

Leo Knight

Written by Leo Knight

June 19, 2005 at 5:55 pm

Posted in Crime & Punishment

Standing up for what is right

with 3 comments

The media have adopted the Police Complaints Commissioner’s report (Blue Curtain: VPD has fostered ‘culture of resistance’ — critics) as their new cause clebre. Unfortunately, Vancouver Police Constable Jamie Graham has yet to come out and call it for what it is – a hysterical piece of nonsense. So, I will.

For whatever reason, the Vancouver media seem to think the so-called Pivot Legal Society has a shred of credibility. They don’t. The fifty or so wild allegations made by them have been roundly and soundly refuted by numerous police investigations including the investigation by the RCMP that the commissioner, Dirk Ryneveld, uses as the basis for his accusations.

In reality, the RCMP investigation report said it had a problem with nine of the complaints in that there were procedural issues and a possibility of a lack of co-operation on the behalf of some VPD members, not that any of the complaints were substianted. That was it. And that seems to be what has Ryneveld in high dudgeon. And I say “so what?”

Right from the get go, it was obvious the Pivot accusations of kidnapping and torture were so much hyperbole that no thinking person should have taken them seriously. But the media did and for whatever reason, apparently still do.

The Vancvouver Sun in its story linked above, takes great pains to regurgitate cases that have already been resolved and judged appropriate behaviour such as the so-called ‘Riot at the Hyatt’ and the Jeff Berg case. Were they so short on real material that they had to raise the illusion of scandal by lumping those cases in?

At the Hyatt, a crowd of activists attacked police lines and tried to break through into the Hyatt where then- Prime Minister Jean Chretien was speaking. The police resisted and held their lines. In the process a couple of the attackers got smacked as they were attacking the police. Not hard enough in my opinion.

In the Jeff Berg case, everyone glosses over the fact that he and his buddies had just committed a home invasion and Berg refused the orders of police constable David Bruce-Thomas who tried to arrest the gang at gunpoint. Berg attacked Bruce-Thomas and lost the fight. In the struggle, Berg took a blow to the neck that he later died from in hospital. Boo-hoo. But Bruce-Thomas did absolutely nothing wrong and was vindicated at every legal turn Berg’s sister could throw at him.

And yet, somehow these small handful of concerns have got everyone in the media (and Ryneveld) thinking there are systemic problems. Talk about hysteria.

In 2003, for example, the VPD had 558,182 reported incidents. A similar number occurs each and every year. And through all of those, a mere handful are deemed to have been handled inappropriately. There are more problems and errors with every issue of every newspaper in this country.

Are the police perfect? Hardly. Are you?

The police do a tough enough job when we just look at the normal day to day stuff. Factor in the cesspit that is the Downtown Eastside and the job is nigh on impossible. Every day, every shift, the cops there are abused, spit on, assaulted, insulted and offended. Yet, for the most part they hold their temper and do their job professionally and appropriately.

Fifteen years ago, when I walked those streets, it was bad enough. I couldn’t even begin to count the number of times I had to fight violent, abusive people. Down there, you have to prove you’re tough or you cannot do your job. It’s not as sterile as the boardrooms of various news organizations. Down there it is reality. I salute the cops who still do it day in and day out.

The critics need to remove their rose coloured glasses and close their personal agendas. And the Chief needs to come out and say that.

Leo Knight

Written by Leo Knight

June 4, 2005 at 11:22 pm

Posted in Crime & Punishment