- Everyone's getting up in arms about long-delayed cases getting dismissed instead of processed because things didn't happen in a "reasonable amount of time", which the Supreme Court has now codified as being "no more than 30 months". That's two and a half years. What people are forgetting is that the "justice" "system" isn't about revenge, or the victim, or the victim's families, or even about justice -- it is about ensuring that the primary values of society are being upheld. And the most important societal value enshrined in the "justice" "system" is that it is better that a hundred or more guilty men go free than a single innocent person be convicted. And to that end, the "system" is burdened with very specific rules that the state has to follow, from investigation through to final arguments, that protect the rights and privileges of citizens from potentially over-zealous prosecution or even persecution. The burden is such that the rules of the "system" state that should the crown fail to abide by these rules, the prosecution can be dismissed. And now one of those rules is the "reasonable amount of time" rule. And therefore, here we are. This is the "system" working to protect the rights of the accused who, like it or not, are presumed innocent of the charges they face, and even if thousands of them go free, there are still cases where the innocent are convicted.
- The thing about law and order is that it costs money. And that money is controlled by the government, through the elected representatives of the people, who give those representatives direction on how much money to collect and how to spend it. And like it or not, the priority of the voters has been: money is more important than paying for more of the "law" side of the law and order coin. For some reason the public is more willing to pay for cops on the beat to generate more criminal cases, but not willing to pay for the lawyers, judges, and courtrooms to process them, nor to pay for the correctional facilities to house said convicts. This, again, is the democratic system working.
- The other thing that popped up this week is that most of the people currently incarcerated in jails are there on remand -- ie they have been charged, but not yet convicted, of a crime. This is presented as an argument, but is in fact a rational response to the incentive -- if you serve pre-conviction time, it counts some multiplier -- double in some cases -- against post conviction sentences. So if you know you did the crime you are charged with AND you know that you have a high probability of being convicted, serving time to get double credit is just rational thinking. Personally I don't really understand the concept of extra credit for time served -- it is supposed to be compensation for being willing to be incarcerated prior to conviction, when the system is perhaps set up to let you be free before being possibly convicted -- but should someone be found not guilty or have the case dismissed, is there any compensation for incarceration prior to such a result? Those, not the actually convictable, are the ones with the best case to argue for compensation -- I wasn't actually guilty, therefore you owe me something for the time I spent in remand.
A few self-indulgent thoughts on the topic of the week...
Posted by David Mackintosh at 5:00 PM