This week is a non-sitting week for the House of Commons, allowing MPs to be back in their ridings to meet with, and hear the concerns of, local residents.
One of the challenges of public office is, while some concerns may fall exclusively under the jurisdiction of local, provincial or the federal government, other concerns overlap and fall under several jurisdictions.
I raise this point because one serious concern I am hearing about from many communities in our region is prolific criminals and what many are calling our “catch and release” justice system.
Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran, as well as Kelowna-West MLA Ben Stewart, have met with me to share information and convey concerns, as have many residents who seek answers to what remains a thorny issue.
In almost every community, there is a small but very well-known group of offenders who commit serious crimes on a habitual basis.
A recent news article from one community summarized the situation well: “A judge granted a prolific offender bail in court on Wednesday afternoon, giving him one more chance to abide by his conditions after being arrested multiple times for allegedly failing to meet them.”
The offender in question is reported to already have 60 convictions over the past decade.
The police are also extremely frustrated. In some situations, these criminals will commit crimes within hours of being released while they await trial.
When you hear from victims, it is devastating. One mobility challenged senior had her motorized scooter stolen from a secure underground garage. It was not insured and she cannot afford to replace it. The senior has now become house bound and her quality of life has deteriorated immensely.
The person (believed to be) responsible was caught, charged and immediately released and is again (believed to be) committing crimes within the community.
At the provincial level, the B.C. government has admitted it is aware this is a serious problem but have no ideas about how to resolve it. Attorney General David Eby has announced the government will hire two experts to come up with ideas about how to take action on this serious problem.
Fortunately, in our Conservative Opposition caucus, we have a new MP with significant experience in this area. Frank Caputo, MP for Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo, is a former Crown prosecutor with experience in corrections, who also served as a law professor at Thompson Rivers University.
He recently tabled Private Members Bill C-274. When he introduced the bill, he noted roughly 5% of offenders commit 90% of the crimes that use police resources. Many of these criminals commit these crimes while awaiting trial for other crimes.
Bill C-274 proposes to create a “presumptive detention” for criminals accused of three or more indictable offences with a maximum penalty of five years or more. This would not be a mandatory requirement, however, it would allow judges more discretion to keep serious criminals in jail where they cannot continue to re-offend.
If a judge felt there was an exceptional reason or circumstance for a habitual offender to be released, they would still have the discretion to release the person.
This bill will not resolve all of the challenges our local communities face with crime, but it most certainly could assist local law enforcement in dealing with serious, re-offending criminals. I was proud to second Bill C-274.
My question this week:
Do you support this proposed legislation?
I can be reached at [email protected] or call toll free 1-800-665-8711
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.