Jails are no place for addiction help.

A recent case in the news, finds a mother grieving her loss. Her son struggled with drug addiction for some time and she thought that when he was arrested and in jail he would get him the help he needed. Unfortunately, her son died while in custody and she is waiting to know why.

Jails and detention centers hold people who are waiting for release on bail or trial, and those who are serving a prison sentence. Federal prisons hold those who have been sentenced to length of custody over 2 years.  Unfortunately, jails and detention centers do not have a lot of resources, so prisoners spend a lot of time in their cells, watching television, doing next to nothing. In a few jails, there may be Alcoholics Anonymous, or chapel, but no programs for education, or skills training.

Jails do not have the ability to monitor people who are addicted or who have mental health issues, sometimes there is a special wing, however, there is minimum medical staff, and often prisoners have to make several requests before they are seen. The courts and jails are unable to force people into giving up their addictions and have treatment.

Resources like the Center for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) http://www.camh.ca/  and your family doctor have better resources if you or a loved one is facing addiction or mental health issues.

 

 

History of the Amber Alert

America’s Missing Broadcast Emergency Response or AMBER is named after a 9 year old abducted and murdered in Texas, Ms. Amber Hagerman in 1996.  These alerts are transmitted by commercial, internet and satellite radio, television, email,  texts. Details are also added to Facebook, Google and Bing in order for the largest possible audience to receive this information and keep a look out. In December 2002, this alert system came to Canada, and Alberta launched the first province-wide system, Quebec launched on May 26, 2003. Ontario also displays its AMBER alerts on 9,000 lottery terminals.  Twenty countries in Europe have some form of AMBER alert system.

The criteria a police department might assess is: whether the missing person is under 18; whether the police believe the person may be abducted;  and whether there is reason to believe the physical safety or the life of the missing person person may be in danger. Sometimes, the police do not issue an AMBER alert until it is too late, as in the case of Victoria Stafford in 2009.

On February 14, 2019, a AMBER alert went out to locate a missing 11 year old, unfortunately authorities found the girl too late, but because of the AMBER alert, her father and sole suspect in her death was located, and arrested.

Pleading Guilty

In the news, people are pleading guilty to very serious criminal charges. There are several reasons for a guilty plea. For a victim and their family, the details will not have to come out in trial or be in the news for a long period. For a defendant, they may have certainty as to the charges or possible sentence.

A defendant always chooses if they wish to enter a guilty plea or have a trial, after reviewing the case materials (disclosure) with their legal advisor, weighing their chances at trial and understanding all consequences.

A severe sentence is not a reason to plead guilty. Everyone is entitled to have a Crown Attorney prove a criminal case beyond a reasonable doubt. Those that plead guilty,  should do so ONLY if they have committed all the elements of the offence(s). The defendant should know that there may be additional consequences. Persons who are refugees, visiting students or permanent refugees may be unable to attain Canadian citizenship or appeal their removal, and could be deported.  A criminal record may stop someone being able to travel to the United States, obtain employment, or volunteer at their child’s school, not be able to continue in their profession or lose the ability to drive for a long period.  A criminal record is permanent, so any decision to plead guilty should be carefully considered knowing all consequences, not to get it over with.

 

 

The trouble with experts

A recent overturning of a innocent’s man’s conviction is another example of how experts can be dangerous to a criminal trial. Experts are usually needed to provide specialized information that would not be in the jury or judge’s area of knowledge. An expert’s job is to help the trier of fact, understand parts of the evidence and ultimately whether the defendant is guilty or acquitted of the charges faced.

Sometimes, the expert’s opinion goes too far, and their findings block out any other testimony that contradicts this. When faced with this outcome, defendants often plead to lesser charges afraid that a definite conviction would result for the more serious charges. This is what happened in Mr. Blackett’s case. Fortunately, the system worked to overturn his conviction, but unfortunately, after he served his sentence. Experts can be useful but their findings should be independently tested.

https://www.thestar.com/news/investigations/2018/10/02/what-happened-to-oneil-blackett-is-a-tragedy-judge-says-in-wrongful-conviction-case.html

Hand gun ban

Given the number of shootings in the Greater Toronto Area this summer, Mayor Tory is seeking to ban hand guns in Toronto. Although it seems like a good ideal there are many reasons why it will not work. One is enforcement, how would a ban be monitored, random police checks? two, often these crimes are committed by stolen or illegally trafficked hand guns, so again how would we stop these guns from being stolen? Three, a city can not enact criminal law, that is only for the federal government. All three levels of government are looking for solutions, many will involve more judges and more police. This is not the only way to stop gun crimes but it is the easiest for politicians.We need to look at long term solutions, such as alleviating poverty, and gang growth, putting more money to social services and opportunities n communities. We need long term thinking for these serious issues.

Being a good blue jay fan ( remember a video is always on)

A fan of any sport or entertainment activity, has to pay for their ticket, and food, and be part of a great event. However, sometimes a fan gets over-excited or does not like the way the event is going, the calls that are being made or the other team’s players. This dude (99.9% times a guy)) full of alcohol decides to shake things up by throwing a can on the field, yell something racist, and ends up facing charges.Whether or not someone is hit, charges such as assault, assault with a weapon, public mischief can be in this dude’s future.

Remember a video or camera is always on somewhere.

Presumption of Innocence

There is always discussions about the role of the criminal justice system and how the courts go about finding a defendant responsible for their alleged crimes.

Until a defendant enters an informed guilty plea – stating I understand that I have done what the Crown has said I have done, I do not wish to challenge the evidence and I understand that I will be punished, everyone charged is presumed innocent.

Is this to let scoundrels get off on a technicality – No. This is the system for everyone charged in Canada. Why is it so you ask?

Imagine that you live in a small town. No one likes you because you are different. One day the well is filled with old tires and no one can get any drinking water. You and your family were sleeping when it happened, but who do you think would get blamed first? That is right, you would and no one would believe you no matter what you said and how often you denied it.

Is that fair? So instead of making you prove why you are innocent – proving a negative. Someone in the community has to prove a positive – who did it. This can be done using pictures, statements from others who did or did not see what happened, finger prints, foot prints, what ever is needed.

At the end of the day, if there is evidence, showing almost 100% a stranger did it, you will be found not guilty.

Is that not a better system?

Racial Profiling

There has been a lot of commentary in the media about racial profiling and carding by police. Which means that the police are focusing on a particular group or race, stopping and investigating these group members more than other groups. Recently, the police have been using these stops to gather information about members of the group, their friends and associates- that is carding them (filling out information). The police have stated that they need these investigative stops and information to know who is doing what for future cases.

Members of the group that the police focus on, are concerned and want profiling and carding to stop. Although, the Toronto Police Service have stopped the practice, municipalities such as Peel still card.

What does that mean for a community member. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms states that the you have a right to not be subject to unreasonable stops and searches, and you have a right to be told of why you are being stopped. However, the police have a right to investigate criminal matters that they are called about and to stop and investigate anyone, to find out if they are the culprit, or know something about the matter. Which means the police have a right to stop and investigate a particular matter.

If the police, are not investigating a particular recent offense, you have the right to not answer any questions, (such as providing your name or address) or to not consent to the search of your person (pockets, bags, knapsacks) and walk away.

You can ask the officer for their badge number and name, ask for their business card. If not provided to you, take a note of the squad car license plate, the time, date and area you are in.
With this information, you can make a complaint to the police division.

Mental health and criminal charges

There are cases in the news recently of crimes committed by defendants possibly due to their mental health issues, which unfortunately stigmatizes all those with mental illnesses. Often when families are dealing with a child or spouse who has mental health issue they call the police hoping that the police can take them to the hospital. Usually, if there is also a report of bad behaviour such as threats, assaults or damage to property, the police have to arrest the person to provide protection to the victims/complainants. Most times these family members are taken to jail instead of the hospital.

The courts can only order treatment if the person is unable to recognize where they are and what is happening in the court, the court can not force someone to see a doctor or take medication if they do not want to. All the court can do is make it an order of bail or probation and if the person does not follow the conditions they will get re-arrested. Also the court may order that the defendant not contact the family members that have contacted the police as the complainant. This does not help those with mental illnesses.

Before calling the police, contact your family doctor, the nearest hospital or the Centre for mental health and addiction (CAMH) at http://www.camh.ca/en/hospital/Pages/home.aspx or (416) 535-8501 or 1(800) 463-2338 toll free and get a diagnosis and help for your family member.

Why should someone be released on bail?

A judge or justice of the peace can consider three important areas before deciding whether to release a person charged with a criminal offence.

One will they come to court. If there is a criminal record where someone has fail to appears or escape lawful custody convictions, or if there is a possibility of a long jail sentence the court will be concerned about whether the accused will come to court.

Second, will they get into further trouble. The court will look at a criminal record because past behaviour predicts future behaviour. If there is not a criminal record the court will look at any outstanding charges to see if past charges are similar. The court will also check whether there has been any breaches of bail or probation – that means the accused did not follow previous court orders. Another concern is whether the victim/witnesses will be harmed if the accused is released.

Third, the court will ask will the administration of justice be compromised if this person is released because of the nature of the offence, whether a firearm was used, the seriousness of the offence and the possibility of a long jail sentence.

These are the main concerns of the court and then the court looks at the person who has stepped forward to sign the bail for the accused. Do they know the accused, can they supervise and keep the accused out of trouble and will they call the police if the accused breaches her bail conditions.

These are the main concern of the court.