In a courtroom in Montreal, Karla Homolka got her freedom back yesterday. Justice James Brunton of the Quebec Superior Court ruled that the Crown had no legitimate case for holding the convicted sex offender to a long list of conditions. While some have reacted with contempt for this decision, I believe that we should be focusing our anger in another direction.
It seems to me that once upon a time, our justice system had a very simple premise attached to it. There was an old adage that went something like this. “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.” It is the ‘time’ aspect that I wish to extrapolate on. When somebody is sent to prison, they are usually released before the end of their sentence. At this point they become parolees, subject to the terms of their release, by way of the conditions that the crown and parole board feel fit to apply. These conditions and restrictions apply until the end of the original sentence. Once the term of the original sentence has expired, the parole period ends, and the offender is free to resume their life.
Some would argue that we place special restrictions on predators of children. Most Canadians do not have a problem with that, and the logic behind it is well thought out. The law protects the most vulnerable among us, the children, and studies show that most child sex offenders are highly likely to re-offend. This law, however, begins to erase one of the fundamental tenets of our justice system which states that once you have ‘done your time’ you are free.
I believe that Justice Brunton has done a good thing, which is to protect our freedom. Our judges must set aside the emotion that accompanies cases such as this one and rule on the facts of the case. While I rail against inept judges from time to time, I don’t believe this decision falls under those which are less than agreeable. Justice Brunton simply ruled on the facts of the case, and those were not sufficient to convince the bench that Ms. Homolka is a continued threat to society. If you disagree with this, as do many, then it is time for us to figure out where this story went horribly wrong and find a way to ensure that it is never rewritten.
I don’t believe that we need to start setting conditions for some criminals to regain their freedom. Either they are free, or they are not. Where do we stop? Do we put monitoring devices on them? Perhaps we should monitor everyone. That way, we could prosecute all crimes. Our freedoms would be drastically curtailed, but many of us don’t seem to notice or even care these days. That is scary.
The problem that we are facing is not a result of a judge removing the restrictions placed on a ‘free’ individual, but is a result of that person being free at all. We must fix our justice system to include minimum sentencing, and we must put into law legislation that prohibits the crown from plea bargaining in certain cases. In heinous cases involving murder and torture where there is absolutely no doubt as to the person’s guilt, such as the Homolka case, perhaps we need to start looking at lethal injections. The point of capital punishment isn’t revenge, it is simply a mechanism to protect the rest of society, and doing the crime that comes with such a penalty is a completely voluntary act on the part of the criminal.
Also, we need to abolish concurrent sentencing. This occurs when an individual can serve all of their sentences at the same time. I would rather see somebody who is deemed a dangerous offender receive an 80 year sentence than have society start spending the time and taking the risk involved in having those individuals walking among us.
When the results of a justice following the rule of law offend us so greatly, we must take steps to amend the law.