Thursday, August 17, 2006

McGuinty’s backward priorities continue to bear rotten fruit

Facts are inconvenient things, is everyone’s favourite saying these days. And it is a saying that continues to come to mind when one observes the record of the McGuinty Liberals in Ontario, who continue to write cheques that their competence can’t cash.

For example, facts on the ground continue to put the lie to the McGuinty government’s claim that it is tough on crime. Today, the Toronto Sun is reporting that a McGuinty-appointed judge ordered a police officer to check his firearm before testifying in an impaired driving trial:

Ontario Court Justice Melvyn Green told a flabbergasted cop witness in a routine impaired driving case Tuesday to “check (his gun) somewhere.”

Const. Chris Horton walked a gantlet of criminals as he stored his gun in a basement storage locker, the cop union says.

Transcripts from Tuesday’s impaired trial of Stephen Bodington at 1000 Finch Ave. W. court show Green told two cops who were set to testify that they must remove their guns and store them “somewhere.”

Green told prosecutor Nenad Trbojevic to “tell” cop witnesses that he did not want “anybody testifying while wearing sidearms.”

When Green was later advised by Trbojevic that on-duty uniform police officers are policy-bound to carry firearms, Green said while it “makes sense, I just do not see the need for them to wear them while they testify.”

Confusion over Green’s unprecedented order led to Bodington’s trial to be adjourned and put over for another five months, which prompted Bodington’s lawyer to suggest the case could be open to a charter challenge because of unreasonable delay.

The Sun also delves into Green’s career as a defence counsel:

During 25 years of work as a criminal lawyer, Green has handled some top -- and controversial -- criminal cases. Green was one of three lawyers who took the case of cop killer Clinton Gayle to the Ontario Court of Appeal in 2001. Gayle is serving a life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years in the June 1994 murder of Const. Todd Baylis. The appeal court rejected defence arguments that the jury that convicted Gayle at trial should have been better screened to prevent any racial prejudice.

Green managed to overturn a 20-year prison term for Cuong Phu Ta, who as a teen was convicted of attempted murder after he walked into Brockton High School with a sawed-off assault rifle in 1994 and shot a vice-principal and another person. After Green’s appeal, Ta was found not criminally responsible, removed from prison and put into a mental hospital.

Green also took an active role in the Canadian Arab Federation’s challenge to Canadian citizen Maher Arar’s torture in his native Syria following his detention in New York while on a stopover during a Geneva-to-Toronto flight.

But Green’s most notable legal roles were as senior counsel at Justice Horrace Krever’s commission into Canada’s HIV tainted blood system, his co-presidency of the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted (AIDWYC) and as counsel for Ontario’s Criminal Lawyer’s Association.

Now, I am not going to hold the man’s record as a defence attorney against him (though it no doubt helped shoot him to the top of Attorney General Michael Bryant’s judicial appointments list). But Green’s insistence that officers check their firearms is groundless, arbitrary, and just plain boneheaded on its face.

Firstly, Green has just handed defence counsel a new tool with which to attempt to delay trials. And it is clear from the crown prosecutor having to educate him that he had not put a lot of thought into the request (now that's the kind of guy we want on the bench).

More importantly, requiring police to store and retrieve their weapons before entering a court room would increase the already substantial time and costs associated with police testifying in court: time and money that would be taken away from such mundane stuff as catching criminals.

This latest embarrassment for the McGuintyites comes barely a week after the Toronto Star ran an above-the-fold story noting that, of the 32 people charged in a Toronto murder this year, 21 were under a court order, some multiple orders:

“In every case I’ve had this year, we’ve had to tell a victim’s family that the accused was out on bail,” said Toronto homicide Det. Stacy Gallant, who has worked on five cases this year.

“We’ve had to say we believe if this (the accused) person had been kept in jail, their son or daughter would still be alive.”

“We’re seeing a number of murder cases where accused people are out on previous bails,” said Staff Insp. Brian Raybould, the head of the homicide squad.

“I’m not talking about theft under. They are on bail for very serious offences, firearms possession, sexual assault, violent crimes. Why are they on bail?”

In May, Attorney General Bryant released a long list of initiatives in an attempt to convince the public that the Liberals are getting tough on gun crime, including “Bail Blitz Teams” designed to “expedite the bail court process at certain sites for criminal cases, including those involving guns.” Given the Star story, it looks like criminals are being put through the bail process -- and put back on the street -- pretty quickly. Good work, Bryant!

The foregoing can be contrasted with the McGuinty government’s bizarre decision to redesign the Ontario government’s four-decades-old trillium logo to more closely resemble the Ontario Liberal party’s logo, including awarding their favourite ad agency $219,000 to do the deed. Talk about assbackwards priorities. When even the mentally challenged can manage to put their underwear on before their pants, what's McGuinty's excuse?

And all this is feeding into a Toronto by-election campaign that began yesterday, to fill the seat that Gerard Kennedy was finally shamed into giving up several months after he began running full time for the federal leadership.

Ironically, crime was an issue in the York South by-election that first sent Gerhard to the Legislature in 1996. No surprise, given the riding includes depressed neighbourhoods such as Jane-Woolner and some pretty rough establishments on Weston Road. But, shortly after Kennedy won the seat, there were two murders in the riding and Kennedy never said much about crime again. Then in the 1999 general election he switched to the more placid constituency of Parkdale-High Park (though it does include some rough areas), York South having been eliminated through redistribution and reduction.

1 comment:

SouthernTory said...

Thanks Joan for your post. If you're interested, check out my site on the up coming bi election in Parkdale/High Park.