A matter of justice, without delay

We live at a time when our national government is transfixed with “tough on crime” policies. We also live at a time when crime rates are the lowest in decades.

Take British Columbia, which, until the late 1990s, had the highest rate of Criminal Code offences of the four western provinces. Today, its rate (third lowest of the four) is about where it was in 1970; it has been dropping for the past 10 years, with youth crime falling faster than overall crime. And yet, less crime has not translated into lower court costs. Crime is down 33 per cent in the past six years, but criminal justice costs are up 35 per cent in the same period.

Smacked in the face by these results, the B.C. government has been conducting internal reviews; it also issued a green paper on modernizing the justice system and appointed lawyer Geoffrey Cowper to study the problem. His findings, reported last month, were disturbing. In fact, if you took the words “lawyers,” “judges” and “justice system” out of the report, an innocent could imagine he was describing the health-care system.

To wit, these observations from Mr. Cowper:

“The system fails to meet the public’s reasonable expectations of timeliness.”

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