Marshall Jones, Managing Editor of Kelowna.com, on prosecutorial power, discretion and accountability in Canada:
What we should be talking about in the Jaffer case and many, many more is the immense power of Crown prosecutors. A hundred cases just like this one goes through our courthouse every day.
Want to know why the original charges were dropped? Too bad. How did they come to the plea bargain? Don’t even ask. Why the lighter charge? Drop dead.
They don’t have to tell you or me anything.
Their power rests in the awful word “discretion.” With every case across their desks—and there are way too many—they have to answer two questions. Is prosecution required in the public interest? And is there a substantial likelihood of conviction?
...Crown prosecutors have a very difficult job balancing those factors as well as many different disciplines and interests: victims, their families, the public, news media, police, justice, the accused, their families all under tight timelines and with huge caseloads.
But I have never seen prosecutors criticized for their decisions. Not by the public, not by judges, not by other prosecutors. They don’t have to defend their decisions to anyone and rarely, if ever, do.
So why did Rahim Jaffer get a lucky break in court? We have to deduce that the investigation had fatal flaws because we all know this was in the public interest. It was an opportunity not only for justice to be done but to be seen to be done, to bastardize the old maxim.
- Garry J. Wise, Toronto