Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Criminal Justice

Two articles have come to my attention that address issues facing Canada's criminal justice system that we don't often hear about.

In Jury duty: Emotions on trial, the Edmonton Journal canvasses whether our jury gag-laws have outlived their usefulness:

Unlike the U.S., where juries are often interviewed at length about what went on in the jury room, it is a criminal code offence in Canada for juries to talk about deliberations. To anyone. Ever.

[Law professor Sanjeev] Anand calls the secrecy rule antiquated and says even the Supreme Court of Canada has alluded to it as "draconian" in nature.

"I think the law needs to be repealed, quite frankly," he says. "We should know what jurors are thinking; it's only in this way we can make the trial process better."

The Toronto Star considers the problem of witness intimidation and "codes of silence" that hamper police investigations. See Police hampered by code of silence:

A family's willingness to protect a gunman by not contacting police underlined "a growing epidemic in our community" where a "code of silence" is allowing "people to kill without fear of arrest," a judge in Scarborough said last June.

...Police have been lobbying Ottawa to make legislative changes "to allow for deferred or delayed disclosure of witness information so we can provide better protection and better support for people who have the courage to come forward."

Both stories are worth a look.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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