Ottawa Sun Online: Editorial - Criminal refresher
Ottawa Sun Online: Editorial - Criminal refresher

Thursday August 17 2006

Editorial - Criminal refresher

We know we've said this before, but apparently we're going to have to keep making the point until someone in a position of authority takes notice: Canada's criminal justice system is a mess.

We'd call it a joke, but there's nothing funny about what is going on in a system that is supposed to make law-abiding citizens feel safe when they go to bed at night.

Look no further than three items in the news this week for a refresher course in how out of touch our so-called justice system has become.

Columnist Mark Bonokoski reminded us a couple of days ago about Henry Danninger, who was returning to freedom after serving two-thirds of a paltry five-year sentence for the vicious killing of a university student.

Then came the warning from police about a dangerous bank robber who was on the loose after escaping custody. James Taylor had seven years left on his 28-year sentence when he decided he'd prefer freedom to life in Beaver Creek. Maybe someone in Correctional Services Canada would like to explain, for starters, why Taylor was being housed in a minimum security camp if he was indeed such a threat.

Item No. 3 involves the stranger-than-fiction case of Albert Walker, the con man and embezzler who knocked off a pal in England, then managed to wangle a transfer back to Canada to do his time, where he'll be eligible for day parole after just 12 years in the slammer. That's despite the fact that a first-degree murder conviction in Canada warrants an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years.

The Walker deal isn't just counter to common sense; it's the opposite of what was said officially by the Canadian government at the time the killer's transfer was negotiated. A memo back then from Fred Mohlmann, senior policy analyst for the Public Safety Department said sentences for transferred inmates should mirror what they would get for the same crime in a Canadian court.

Walker's ex-wife, Barbara McDonald, expressed fear for her family's safety when the transfer occurred last spring. She was appalled at the prospect of a parole hearing process and his possible release in just a few years.

"It's way too early, considering all that he has done," she said. "He got a very sweet deal."

Sweet deals seem to be the hallmark of the Canadian justice system. It's time the Harper government showed it wasn't kidding when it promised to crack down.

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