Friday, October 4, 2013

The Squishy Reasoning Behind Opposition to Mandatory Minmum Sentencing

The soft-on-crime crowd are applauding Justice John Menzies today for indulging himself in a little judicial activism today.

Menzies has suggested that mandatory minimum sentencing laws for gun crimes shouldn't apply to the case of a Manitoba man who fired six shots into the home of someone who he claimed had been bullying him. Two people were home at the time, although fortunately for everyone involved -- most of all for the perp -- no one was hurt.

But perhaps most appalling is the sponge-like logic that Menzies applied to the case. As highlighted by Aaron Wherry:

"Mandatory minimum sentences give an unfair advantage to the Crown by making it more likely for the accused to plead guilty to a lesser offence for fear of risking a long prison sentence, Menzies said. There is also more reluctance on the part of the court to convict an accused facing a lengthy sentence, he said."

Menzies' logic is clearly speculatory. So as long as we're speculating, let's walk this through:

1.) Menzies has argued that accused criminals may be more likely to plea bargain rather than risk facing a long sentence. And yet,

2.) Judges and juries may be less likely to convict based on the likelihood of a long sentence.

The logic simply doesn't hold. If judges and juries are less likely to issue convictions given the likelihood of long sentences, then there's actually less reason for accused criminals to seek plea bargains, and more reason for them to roll the dice in court, particularly if they are guilty.

No one -- especially not Wherry -- seems to have taken notice of this clear lapse in reasoning. Which is just another reminder of just what is wrong with the media discourse on crime in Canada.

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