B.C.’s Assistant Deputy Attorney General Peter Juk has written a letter responding to recent criticism of the province’s criminal justice system.
In his seven-page letter, Juk writes that while scrutiny of the justice system is a normal part of healthy public discourse, he criticized the recent focus on so-called prolific offenders and accusations that the province is operating a “catch and release” model when it comes to prosecution.
His letter comes as a report into how to address B.C.’s prolific offenders is set to be released in late September. Juk noted that the term “prolific offender” does not have a legal definition and said the term means different things to different people.
Juk pointed to the charge assessment standard, a section of the Crown Counsel Act which requires each Crown Counsel in British Columbia to “examine all relevant information and documents and, following the examination, to approve for prosecution any offence or offences that he or she considers appropriate.”
He also wrote that the B.C. Prosecution Service operates under strict time and legal limits when it comes to prosecutions and whether to grant bail.
“The Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees every person charged with an offence the right not to be denied reasonable bail without just cause. Under the Criminal Code, every person arrested for an offence is legally entitled to be released by the police or brought before a judge for a bail hearing as soon as possible. The judge decides whether to detain the person in custody or release the person on bail and on what conditions.”
Juk wrote that granting bail is often “the rule” and pretrial detention is “the exception”.
“Some have described the constitutionally and legally mandated law of bail as “catch and release”. This phrase tends to undermine a basic principle underlying all enlightened criminal justice systems: respect for the humanity of all individuals, including those who are accused of crime.”
Over the past two years, there have been increasing reports of random assaults occurring in B.C., especially in Vancouver, which have contributed to a perception that crime rates are “out of control”. However, Juk said crime rates in B.C. are “about as low as they have been for many years”.
Juk warned that public confidence in the criminal justice system can be undermined by “uninformed or inaccurate” public statements and said the public deserves “real facts”.
“The system is not broken. No system is perfect, however, and public confidence in the criminal justice system is vital to its success. Public scrutiny, informed discussion, and reasoned debate help to ensure that our criminal justice system is functioning properly. It also assists us in making improvements and adjustments when necessary to make sure we can fulfill our mandate as an independent, effective, and fair prosecution service.”